If Only They Knew

You hear that a friend—or rather not really a friend—has said something behind your back. Worse, maybe they not only said it behind your back but in front of a lot of other people. What can you do? Perhaps you greedily suck this information up through your sources—What did they say? Really? In those words?—and watch as the game of telephone exaggerates and distorts the whole situation until you’re seething with rage. Maybe you confront them, maybe you start gossiping about them—fighting back through your own back channels. Maybe you say to yourself, “Just wait, I’ll make them pay for this.”

You could do any of that. Or you could do what Epictetus did when a friend criticized him. He would shrug and say “If that person really knew me and my flaws they’d have said something much, much worse.”

Because it’s true isn’t it? Whatever you heard someone saying behind your back—inaccurate or not—it’s probably not half as bad as what that same person could say if they really, really knew you and your secrets, your habits or your inner-thoughts. So just tell yourself you got off easy this time. And maybe think about fixing whatever there would be to criticize if someone could see how you act behind closed doors.

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