Retire From Gossip
“Using the analogy of the human mind as a computer, gossip can be compared to a computer virus. A computer virus is a piece of computer language written in the same language all the other codes are written in, but with a harmful intent.”
–Don Miguel Ruiz, The Four Agreements
One of my pet peeves is gossip. For the sake of this article I am defining gossip as: “Any talk about another that is not coming from a place of love, is without the intention of good will, and has questionable accuracy and that you would not want the other to hear about”.
If you are saying something about a person to another person that is not coming from an intention of love or good will, and or is an interpretation rather than “the truth” (most things are merely interpretations), which you would not say to that person directly, then you are gossiping.
Have I ever gossiped? Yes. I doubt that any of us are entirely innocent of gossiping. Did I feel good about gossiping? No. Have I ever hurt another by gossiping? Yes, probably. Do I regret that? Yes, very much. Has someone gossiping about me ever hurt me? Yes.
Gossip hurts. It causes pain for those who engage in it as well as those who are victims of it. We don’t feel good about ourselves when we talk in derogatory ways about others. When we do things that make us not feel good about ourselves, we harm our self-respect, self-love and self-confidence. People who have high levels of these qualities do not gossip.
For the victim of gossip, the pain can be excruciating. A dear friend of mine was recently deeply wounded by gossip about her by her own family members. The things that were said were neither true nor coming from a place of love or goodwill toward her. Those that engaged in this gossip would not have wanted her to hear what they had said. She did hear and she is hurt.
My friend’s pain is a poignant reminder to me of my own commitment to not engage in gossip in any way. I set this standard for myself some time ago. At times I have fallen short. I am re-committing to working harder on this within myself.
Resisting gossip takes courage, effort, and awareness.
Because we all want to feel like we belong, and in most groups, if we choose not to participate in gossip, we don’t feel like we belong. It’s much easier to be a part of gossip than it is to step away. Another reason it takes courage is that if we have an issue with another, the easy thing to do is to talk to third parties about it.
It takes a lot more courage to speak directly to the person with whom you have the issue. (I want to add one caveat here. Sometimes it’s helpful to talk with a third person about an issue you have with another, but only if your intention is to seek help in resolving the problem.)
Why effort? Because gossip is such a big part of our everyday lives. We hear it everywhere. From the tabloids and media that rely on gossip, to T.V. shows whose whole focus is on gossip, to the everyday people around us.
Pay attention the next time you are at any type of gathering. Notice the conversations in which various people are engaged. Any time two or more people are engaging in conversation, there is a tendency to gossip.
Why awareness? Because gossip is so easy to get pulled into and is actually a habit for some people. To stay out of gossip, you have to be aware of those around you as well as be aware of your inner self. You have to be willing to ask yourself hard questions and be brutally honest with your answers. You have to examine your intention before saying something about another. You have to take the time to think before you speak.
Here are some questions you might ask yourself before saying something about another:
1. Is what I’m about to say true? How do I know it’s true? Remember that each time a piece of gossip is passed on, the message is filtered through yet another person’s perception. I remember an exercise in college where we sat in a circle and person #1 told a story to person #2, then person #2 told the same story to person #3 and so on around the circle until it was told to the last person. That person then told the story to the whole group. The story we heard from the last person was nothing like the story person #1 told. What happened?
When someone tells us something, it is filtered through our perception. Our perception is made up of our beliefs, values, experiences, knowledge, etc. Since everyone’s beliefs, values, experiences, knowledge, etc. are different, everyone’s perceptions are different. As the story progressed around the circle, it was filtered again and again through each person’s unique perception. The result was a story that was not the story originally told.
2. What would be my intention in saying this? Is what I’m about to say coming from a place of love or fear? Love is good will toward others, respect, caring, compassion, understanding, etc. Fear is jealousy, hate, anger, desire to feel superior to another, wanting someone to side with us, not wanting to speak directly to the person about the matter, wanting to belong.
3. If the person I’m about to talk about should hear what I’ve said, could she or he be hurt? Remember the definition for gossip and if your answers fit that definition, don’t say it. Most of us would never intentionally hurt someone’s feelings. By retiring from gossiping, in most cases, we can insure that we don’t unintentionally hurt another. How would our world be different if we all retired from gossiping? How might our children behave differently if we adults put an end to gossiping?
By Sharon Demarte
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