I was doodling at my desk while I stared at the smartboard in front of me in English class. It displayed a page scanned from a written essay with the name of my friend in the top left corner. The teacher praised her work, pointing out examples of her talented writing and teaching the class with it. After the teacher had turned the smartboard off, two of my classmates sitting to the left of my desk turned towards each other and spoke in private, hushed tones. I, unfortunately, could hear them.
"Ugh, her again," one said. It was pretty obvious that she was talking about my friend.
"She's so annoying," the other one chimed in.
I was too cowardly to turn around to defend my friend, who had the same class but in another period of the school day. One thing was for sure, however, that they didn't know her like I did.
She was the exact opposite of me, and in our case, opposites did attract. I usually wore the same sweatshirt everyday and dressed in muted, dark colors. I had a monotone voice and had a very dry sense of humor (both of which I am proud of today). I was usually very quiet in class and kept to myself. Every outfit my friend wore was colorful and unique. Her passion was singing and theatre, so one would expect her to belt out in a cheerful song whenever she had the chance. She was an outspoken feminist and wasn't afraid to stand up against injustice in class. I became friends with her when I was in middle school. We were placed in the same gym class, bonding over the fact that we disliked gym and had been talking with each other ever since. As we got older and entered high school, I discovered that we both had accounts on a popular blogging site and continued our friendship there as well. We would send interesting internet posts to each other, laugh at jokes, and just talk together. We even discussed politics and human rights, which, for me, makes or breaks a relationship. All in all, we agreed on a lot of things, even to disagree.
Hearing people speak ill of her behind her back reduces everything I know about her to nothing. They discredit her positive traits just because she doesn't fit the mold of "likeable" for them. Of course, people don't have to like everyone, and there are genuinely horrible people out there that deserve to be hated. But as the Earth continues to spin and everyone keeps getting older, the old childhood saying never changes. "If you have nothing nice to say, don't say it at all."
Lately, I've noticed that humans, including myself, are comprised of two major natures: personal and public. Public is the outer shell of a person, acting as the "see-all" for interacting with strangers and people encountered on a daily basis. Personal is the inner shell of a person, the true, "raw" personality of what people are like at the pinnacle of their comfort with others. To some people, public is more of a purse, an accessory, that is worn as a fashion statement and frequently moved and tossed around. Other times, public is more like a mask that people can build for themselves and wear like it was a part of them.
People aren't obliged to search for someone's true personality, nor do they have to take everyone they meet at face-value. People need take a second and think before making any judgements about others. No matter what their judgements are, they should not carelessly say things about people they barely know. It hurts them and degrades their personalities, reducing them to a single insult that could stick with them for a long time.