Words wield power. We read books that have shaped intel­lectual move­ments, pre­served history, and impacted the lan­guage they were written in (such as Shake­speare, who coined phrases we still use today, and Dante, whose “Divine Comedy” has allowed the Italian of the 14th century to remain well pre­served in modern Italian). Words can make things happen, and not only the words of bril­liant figures such as Dante and Shake­speare.

Our words also have force, and I don’t just mean elo­quent words that we may one day have the skill and wisdom to write. I mean the thou­sands of words that we speak in a day, during lunch, during quick con­ver­sa­tions on the quad, and over the phone. They have the power to build or destroy — and it’s all too easy to destroy.

With a student body of about 1,500 young adults — 18 to 22-years-old — stu­dents at Hillsdale pass on infor­mation about each other flip­pantly and rapidly. Like all gossip, the more people talk about an issue, the more oppor­tunity for a story to gain inac­cu­racies. Even the first person to recount a story or incident has their own angle and bias.

I doubt many people want others to define their char­acter based on their college lives. Few at 22-years-old can look at the last four years without regretting some­thing, be it broken rules, broken friend­ships, and aca­demic or even moral failings. The maturing process accel­erates at college, and it’s a bumpy ride.  

Con­sider the impact that five minutes of gossip could have before repeating a story about one of your peers. Even seem­ingly harmless infor­mation, such as what *insert name* said or did last week or last year, can dras­ti­cally change someone’s rep­u­tation in the eyes of mul­tiple friends. Even if only one person loses respect for another due to gossip, those words have done damage that is most likely irreparable.

To maintain the trust of your friends, practice dis­tin­guishing between giving advice and gos­siping. In the spe­cific sit­u­ation that a peer acts in a way that threatens safety or well-being, perhaps talk to a mentor figure in your life who has the dis­cretion to keep infor­mation to them­selves and the authority to give good advice. Maybe actually speak with the person in question about it. Chatting it up with friends probably won’t help, and it will def­i­nitely get the gossip mill working.

Anna Timmis is a senior studying English.