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.