The essence of practice is the consciousness or intention you bring to the practice – something that you willingly choose to participate in every day. Long held practices take on a life of their own and if there is no clear purpose to the practice we call them habits. For some gossiping is a habit, for others it is a practice the purpose of which is to raise themselves up by bringing others down.
First a working definition of gossip:
Gossip: casual or unconstrained conversation or reports about other people, typically involving details that are not confirmed as being true : he became the subject of much local gossip.• chiefly derogatory a person who likes talking about other people’s private lives.
(source: the dictionary that came with my Mac OS – doesn’t sound particularly impressive does it? Ah well, I’m confident your Oxford English editions will yield something similar.)
Most people gossip for two simple reasons:
- They are born into communities that gossip.
- They have no idea of what they do when they gossip.
Being Born Into Gossiping Communities
We are social animals and we learn social behavior of what is and is not acceptable through the environments, traditions, cultures etc., that we grew up and live in. Just so happens that many cultures not only tolerate gossip, but actually promote it in the media (witness what’s been going on recently in the media with Tiger Woods). People that gossip didn’t choose “evil” and are not inherently bad people, they simply imitated the behavior of the people around them.
Being Unaware (or willingly ignorant) of The Consequences
Just like the big guy said on the cross “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34), many people don’t understand the consequence of gossiping. If they did, they wouldn’t do it.
All right, I just saw someone light a cigarette; so maybe they still would gossip, but at least they would feel terribly guilty about it.
What Are The Consequences of Gossiping?
So what is so “bad” about gossip? What is it that people are unaware of or don’t acknowledge about gossiping that allows them to continually participate in it? Consider these:
1 – Gossiping is Destructive
Gossip damages a person’s social standing. Think about it: people don’t talk secretly about the good things they see or hear about other people.
“Pssst. Did you hear the story about John? Apparently he spends his afternoons and weekends building shelters for the poor.”
Instead you get the stories that you experience in even the so-called reputable media, and the whispered allegations that go so long unchallenged that they become accepted “truths”.
Gossip spreads unsubstantiated stories about a person that damages how that person is regarded in their community, and how someone is regarded in their community is directly related to how much they are trusted. Trust is the measure of a person’s value in society which impacts who we are able to associate with, what positions we are allowed to hold, and yes how much money we are able to earn.
2 – Gossiping is Inherently Unjust
Do you really need an explanation? No one is perfect, and how would you feel if people were discussing the most private details about your life, especially when many of these details are false. There are legal consequences to gossiping yet it is so prevalent that even the rich and famous resort to charges of slander and libel only in the most extreme cases. Fighting gossip often serves to fan the flames so it is often a better strategy to ignore it.
3 – Gossiping Perpetuates a Culture of Gossip
We are social animals and gossip can only exist in a social environment. Your speaking and listening to gossip signals to those that trust you that you approve of gossiping. This means they will bring gossip to you as well as spread gossip to those that trust them. This is why many magazines, newspapers, TV and radio shows exist: because YOU listen to and spread gossip.
Remember this, “Whoever gossips to you will gossip about you.” (unknown)
4 – You Rob the World of Your Very Valuable Help
There are only 24 hours in a day and countless problems that need to be solved for your own life, your family, your communities and your world. Every second you spend gossiping (which includes listening to gossip) robs the world of your capacity to help make the world a better place.
5 – You Damage Yourself
What does gossip say about you? Every time you participate in gossip by either speaking or listening to it you advertise to the world and particularly to those that trust you, that you believe what others tell you on face value and that you not only have no regard for the people you are gossiping about , but you have no regard for the truth .
You signal to the world that you are a destroyer.
If you can’t see this, ask yourself “What is my purpose of sharing this ‘information’ about someone”? Is it to have people think more of this person (who the ‘information’ is about), or is it so that people will think less of them?” Then ask yourself “Why do I want to bring this person down?” This could lead to some real insight into your beliefs about people (maybe certain types of people) and the world.
And the reality is that people gossip
There is an amazing truth to the Golden Rule (Do unto others …./What goes around comes …/As you sow ….), and yet you may find that this is one of the few cases where it does not apply. People will gossip about you even if you don’t engage in the practice yourself.
“What’s so” about the world is that people gossip, and if they aren’t gossiping about you, it’s only because they haven’t noticed you yet. (Spell my name right please )
In fact the bigger the game you play, the more you are up to something, the more visible you become, the more people will gossip about you, but that doesn’t mean that you have to participate in it. In fact the golden rule will apply in another way; people will come to respect you and gossip less about you when they observe that you don’t participate. You will mitigate the negative effects about the gossip about you when you yourself don’t gossip.