I’m preaching to myself. I’ve been doing this since I was old enough to feel personally convicted of the sin of gossip. I do it; feel bad; repent; repeat. It’s like a weekly shampoo for my soul. What I need is probably more like a hot oil treatment. I needed a taste of my own medicine. And, I’ve got it. I have never heard so much gossip trackback about myself since I… since I don’t know when. There’s a ton of speculation floating around out there, apparently. What did I do to deserve such speculation? Oh, wait…
Hear no Evil: I will be the first to admit that I love a good, juice story. I watch those celebrity shows on E! when it’s on, read up on the latest in the magazines and try to figure out who is with whom, when. I feel, wrongly, that those celebrities aren’t real people, they’re acting out the parts of their life. I think we often hear gossip about others through that screen. We hear a story and mull it over for awhile. The problem is, what we hear influences what we think. We would like to hold ourselves above basic prejudice, but if we listen to gossip, we’re influenced by gossip.
How do we not listen to gossip? Listening is an active process. When you listen, you’re going through the stages, hearing, interpreting, evaluating, remembering and responding. Stop with hearing. When you hear someone assuming the tone of gossip… move on. It might not be easy, but if you’re really committed to it, you can curb your gossip consumption.
Speak no Evil: Not passing on gossip that I haven’t managed to avoid is the next step to recovering addicts like myself. This doesn’t just mean UNTRUE gossip; it’s all gossip. A good friend of mine is spending Lent without speaking ill of an obnoxious person in her life. I find that admirable. I don’t think that’s gossip, necessarily, though I think the temptation is there in a siutation such as hers, to pass on any bad thing she hears about said obnoxious person. I read the story of a visiting missionary to Africa. He told about the differences in punishing various crimes, that adultery was punishable by a fine, that stealing cost a hand, but being guilty of gossip was a death sentence. He said the chief explained to him that adultery hurts the couple. stealing hurts the merchants and those directly effected, but gossip can destroy the whole town.
I used to say, “I don’t repeat gossip, so, you better listen up!” I would like to say that I don’t pass gossip on, but I know I do. I cannot, on my own, see the fine line between gossip and news reporting. I think it might have something to do with intentionality, but I’m not leaving it up to chance. I have heard lots of people explain away their gossip . . . I know I’ve heard, “I just want you to pray for So-and-So, they are really going through something right now; let me tell you all about it, so you know what to pray for…” or “I feel so bad for So-and-So, having to deal with all this….” What we really mean when we gossip is, “My life is not THIS bad. Look how great I am in comparison.”
Gossip is used by people for negative ends. One company starts a nasty rumor about their competitor. I read this blog about that very thing. Children use gossip to bully each other at school. The party in a break-up who gets the rumor mill abuzz with their side of the story first “wins.” I do know the first people I would call if I wanted to start or perpetuate a rumor. They can always be counted on to further a story, especially a scandalous one. What does that say about me that I haven’t called or reached out to them lately for the best new stuff? Am I cured? What does that say about them? I hope I’m not atop anyone’s list for that purpose, at least not any more. Keep me honest, people. If I’m trying to gossip with you, tell me ever-so-unkindly to Hear no Evil, Speak no Evil, or, in more direct terms, to SHUT UP!