January 24, 2018, 1:16 am
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Missed friendships, missed opportunities

Perhaps many of us have been in this situation: someone we trust criticizes or badmouths another person with whom we never had any bad experience.

But we believe the bad report anyway. And so we form a negative opinion about someone who never did us any harm. 

Has that ever happened to you? Unfortunately, it has happened to me. Several times, in fact, up till I was in my early 30s. I was immature and highly susceptible to gossip. I easily believed people who made sumbong, or got to me first. I didn’t have enough sense to suspend my judgment and investigate first, before arriving at a conclusion. I was stupid and naive about people who had no qualms about destroying other people’s reputations, for one reason or another. 

I remember how a close friend ruthlessly back-stabbed and gossiped about a person (who I didn’t know well) -- to the point where I disliked and avoided this person who was being gossiped about! My bad. 

It didn’t matter to me that I hadn’t observed anything wrong with her. Or that there was no evidence about the allegations against her (oh dear, I’m sounding like a news reporter here). Or that I had no negative personal encounters at all with this person. I just blindly believed my close friend. I took offense for my friend. And maybe, because of a warped sense of loyalty, I allowed my own judgment and sense of fairness to be clouded. 

I disliked this other person simply because my close friend disliked her. My friend’s “enemy” became my enemy. I think a 30-year-old should’ve had more sense than that. But I didn’t. This was something I regretted, a few years down the road. Let me tell you why. 

As it turned out, I had to work with this person who was being maligned by my close friend. In fact, I disliked this person for years, even if I had very little contact with her. I disliked her by osmosis. That’s the
best way I can describe this pernicious thing that had taken a life of its own. 

So there I was, at our first working meeting, filled with loathing for her. I was suspicious of her. I was so ready to dislike her even more. 

But was I in for the surprise of my life!!! As it turned out, she was very likable. In fact, even if I was inwardly fighting it tooth and nail, I liked her a lot by the end of our first meeting. She was amiable. Helpful.

Funny. Witty. Charming. Intelligent. Authentic. Someone I would’ve loved to have as a friend. 

Sadly (and very stupidly), I quickly put up my defenses in our next meeting. It was grotesque. I felt like I was betraying my close friend if I got to like this much-reviled person. So almost everything good that I saw in her, heard her say, or watched her do -- I chose to see through a dark filter of doubt and suspicion. Even with all the evidence of her goodness and strength right under my nose, I still chose to be influenced by the bad report of my close friend -- which I hadn’t forgotten, even after so many years. 

That’s what happens when we allow others to pollute our minds. We become like poisoned wells of stagnant water. 

So it became more and more of a struggle for me to sit through meetings and actually enjoy working with this person. I learned so much from her. She was a natural leader. 

When we finally had to part ways because the project had ended, there was no reason to continue meeting. But I found out later that she had kept in touch with another member of our group. And then she got this person to be part of a bigger, more interesting project that I would’ve loved to be part of! I was happy for this girl who had been chosen. But I felt sorry for myself. I was thinking -- well, the girl probably had better credentials than me. 

When I congratulated this girl for having been chosen, she looked at me strangely and said, “You know what, she said you would’ve gotten the job hands down. She said she would’ve chosen you in a heartbeat. But she said she felt you didn’t like her, for some reason. So she chose me instead. She said she finds it a waste of time and energy to work with someone who doesn’t like her.” 

My heart sank to my feet. That’s what it cost me -- a job that I had only one crack at! A chance of a lifetime. And all because I allowed a close friend to poison my mind about someone who apparently didn’t deserve it. 

As I thought about it some more, I finally realized that my close friend must’ve been horribly intimidated by this woman whom she had ruthlessly maligned. Throw in tons of envy, too. And a bad, bad kind of competitiveness. 

That day, I learned this awful truth about some people: What they can’t become, they try to destroy. 

That was a life lesson for me which I learned the hard way. 

The one good thing, though, that came out of it was this: I learned not to be corrupted by negativism, criticism, gossip, and back biting -- especially when I detect bitterness, envy, jealousy, competitiveness, and malice behind it. I try not to allow my well to be poisoned anymore. 

I don’t want to lose the opportunity again of finding a good friend in someone just because one of my close friends happens to dislike her.

I don’t believe bad reports about someone right away -- I suspend my judgment until I’ve investigated it and, whenever possible, until I’ve heard both sides of the story. 

That way, I give people a fair chance at proving themselves good or right or true -- not blinding myself with other people’s negative opinions. 

If I see for myself that a person is, indeed, mean and vicious and untrustworthy, then I just back off and make a mental note of it. 

This is my little secret, and my little sweet revenge, if you can call it that: 

I forgive that person, and I pray (very hard) that God will give that person godly sorrow that will lead to repentance. That way, I become pro-active -- not bitter, vindictive, or mean. I also ask God to give that person no peace until he/she turns from his/her evil ways. 

I know it’s a prayer that God loves to answer with a YES. In his own way. In his own good time.
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