“Respect for the reputation and honor of persons forbids all detraction and calumny in word or attitude.” (CCC 2507)
Have you ever really stopped to consider how ugly gossip is?
Working in school, family and parish life you experience time and again how colossally stupid, destructive and therefore sinful gossip can be.
The reason gossip is stupid is because it almost invariably deals in half-truths.
A person gets one side of the story and one portion of the truth, then draws the wrong conclusion and tells another person.
The lie becomes exaggerated and is spread further.
Before long innocent people are drawn into a maelstrom of gossip, innuendo and downright lies.
Here’s an example. One day I was walking across the parish campus and asked a person what they thought about the plans to build a new church and wondered where we would put the parking.
I waved to an expanse of ground and said, “We could put parking here.”
“But we would have to cut down the trees!”
“Yes, I suppose we would.”
Two days later the gossip made it around the circuit and back to me when someone confronted me and said, “I hear you are going to cut down all the trees on our campus! How dare you!”
Now all of this would be laughable and sad if it were just a group of sad old ladies (of any age and of both genders) who had nothing better to do that prattle and gossip away.
The problem is, it is much more destructive than that.
Gossip destroys people’s reputations. It destroys people’s marriages. It undermines the Lord’s work. It spreads hate and fear.
Gossip is like a hideous cancer. You cut it out in one place and it comes up in another.
So here are some ways to stop gossip:
1. Believe nobody and believe everybody. In other words, believe what the person has told you. They really do think what they have said is true and from their perspective it is true. However, remember there is always, always, always another side to the story. Therefore do not believe them. Stop and bite your tongue.
2. Gather all the facts. Don’t take anybody’s word for it. Find out what really happened from as many people as possible.
3. Go to the source. For goodness’ sake, have the courage and grace and common sense to go to the source. If Mildred gossips about George, go straight to George to find out the facts.
4. Give everyone the benefit of the doubt. Believe the best, not the worst. If you hear something bad about someone, imagine why they did that thing (if they really did) and what their good motivations might be.
5. Shut up. You don’t have to talk and tell everybody everything. Even a fool is accounted wise if he keeps his mouth shut. Talk half as much as you listen.
6. Challenge the gossip. Don’t believe it—and say sweetly to the person, “Do you really know if this is true?”
7. Challenge the gossip harshly: “What you’re telling me is filthy, destructive gossip! I refuse to believe it and I think you should keep your mouth shut!” (P.S. They won’t like that.)
8. Fix your eyes on the truth. Why waste your time in silly, useless gossip?
9. Focus on others. Do you know why you like gossip? Because it makes you feel superior. You gossip negatively about others because you think you’re better than them. So you would poison and destroy their lives to make yourself feel good for a moment. Yuck.
10. Pray for the persons involved. Just offer up an “arrow prayer”: Lord Have Mercy.
May the Good Lord Deliver us from gossip. AMEN.