Last year a family member sent me an email saying that if I made them choose between me and the other person, they would choose the other person.
My first thought was: is this a warning or a threat?
My second thought is: YOU may not have chosen but I just did.
More recently I received an email from another family member. Telling us a piece of information, telling us that it was private and the people that it was about were not telling anyone, telling us not to contact the people or let them know that we know.
I wrote back immediately that I am not ok with being given private information of that sort.
I choose again: ethics over loyalty.
I love my family. But I don't approve of the gossip. Of private information behind other people's back, it's "ok" because we are family, we are loyal, we are one.
No. It is not ok with me, I think it is hurtful and damaging.
Two years ago an old family friend made a comment about my father's will. "Oh," I said, "Is there a discussion about my father's will going on that I don't know about?"
Yes. There was. And I know that AT LEAST six family members and old family friends were involved. How nice.
When I first read my father's will I sat down and cried. Because it was from 1979 and out of date and I thought "I will be sued." So I took it to an attorney and let the legal experts tell me what it meant. I did what they said.
Two years later, I was sued. By the family.
I have been reading my mother's diaries. In part because I needed certain information for the legal discussion. I also had questions. My mother, my father, my sister are dead. But my mother hid so many things and her stories resonate still, even though she died in 2000. My mother had two aspects, two faces. The one that she showed to the world and the other one. That one was only shown to my father.
Two years after she died, my sister and I asked him: "What was she REALLY like?"
She was publicly charming.
My father replied: "Morose."
And the truth is BOTH. But she kept the morose side for my father and for her diaries. And we, her children, knew that it was there.
Back to the family member who sent the email. Let's call them X. My mother describes an event in 1996. My sister says to her: "I feel like these four family members keep me at a distance and I don't know why."
My mother says, "Do you really want to know why?"
"Yes," says my sister.
My mother writes that she is afraid my sister will be hurt or cry. "X told them THIS story." My mother repeats what she has heard.
My sister is FURIOUS. "WHAT? That isn't true! That is her version!"
My sister calls X. My mother writes that X says "I'm over it." My mother says that that's specious because this has been behind my sister's back, she's had no chance to tell her version, and it bloody well hurts and has damaged her relationship with the family.
My sister gets off the phone and calls one of the four. Whose phone is busy: and my mother says X is probably calling the family member first.
At some point my sister talked to me. My mother says my response is basically, yeah, ick, they suck.
And there are other examples. My Uncle and Grandmother talking about my other Uncle's wife. I blew that one out in the open. I was called on the carpet for hurting the other Uncle's wife. I was around age 20. I did not say, "But Uncle and Grandmother were the ones who were saying it first." I just took the scolding and I apologized to the Aunt. My grandmother watched me and she and my uncle did not gossip in front of me again that summer. Notice served: I am not ok with it.
Loyalty is now a theme at the national level. I still love my family. But I walk away with sorrow from those who gossip, who choose family loyalty at the expense of ethics.