Sharing can be caring.
Over the last year I’ve found myself on the receiving end of text from friends that begin with statements like: “I have some distressful news . . .” The bad news unfolded into stories of doctors, hospitals, and many scary procedures. These stories belonged to my friends, not to me, but I shared them. I shared them with other friends – of mine – of the storyteller – but sometimes I shared these stories that didn’t belong to me outside of my circle of friends. I believe that I shared the stories responsibly.
But how can I be sure?
Normally, I would not ask myself this question, but a couple of the most recent distressful-news stories were shared in less than favorable ways. So I had to ask myself: “Am I over-sharing?”
Honestly, I don’t think I’m alone in this. We receive bad news from a friend (cancer, divorce, collapse, death, accidents, drug problems), and the wildfire of story-sharing breaks out. Unlike yesteryear when stories moved slowly as they navigated landlines, rotary phones, and handwritten letters, today’s stories are fanned by cellphones and social media, and the wildfire engulfs everyone in an instant.
Most often, the sharing is genuine. It’s done as a loving effort to let other friends and the community know so that a support network can kick in and help those in need. In less elevated iterations, the sharing is simply gossip. In its most banal form, the sharing is derisive, a weapon to undermine those who are already suffering.
But what about that place between genuine sharing and gossip? You have been there if you ever asked yourself: “Why did I share this with them?” or “Would my friend be upset that I told them?”
My midlife throttle is wide open, and, unfortunately, distressful news is the new normal.
I’ve established some guidelines for myself as I navigate those moments when I feel compelled to share a friend’s story. Before I unveil them, a tiny confession for you:
- Being the first to inform another friend about the news can be oddly satisfying. I’m not proud of it, but there it is.
- Not telling a friend’s story can sometimes be less genuine than sharing it.
Now, remember, genuine vs. gossip, vs. weapon. Along those lines, I have roughed out basic levels of sharing to use as a guideline.
- Sharing helps my friend. Does it help spread the news, set up a support network, and so on? If yes, share. If not, next question.
- Sharing helps me. Is it on my my mind, does it impact my performance or mood, am I expanding the prayer circle, can I share it without violating my friend’s trust or privacy? If yes, share. If not, next question.
- Sharing is part of a casual conversation outside of the circle that includes my friend. At this point, the only relevant question is: “Does it violate my friend’s trust or privacy?” If yes, don’t share.
For me, there are no more questions. If you made it this far and think there should be more, these are the definite don’ts:
- Sharing is just an anecdote. If it is just gossip, don’t share.
- Sharing is an excuse. If this is a way to get out of work or an obligation, an excuse to ask for money, do not share.
- Sharing is a weapon. Wow. You’re not a friend.
The golden rule applies. Your friend is distressed. She or he needs a good friend. Be that friend to them. Share responsibly.
Copyright © 2015 by Pennie Nichols, All Rights Reserved.