Behind Backs

How to avoid drifting into the waters of idle gossip.

My husband and I communicate so well, I sometimes worry that maybe we talk too much. Specifically: Is it gossip to unload news and concerns about co-workers, friends and family members — or is this a legitimate way to seek comfort and input?

With a gleam in his eye, a good friend of ours used to say, “I don’t like to repeat gossip, so I’m only going to say this once!” It is natural for spouses to go to each other to let off steam, but we must always be careful not to fall into the trap of idle gossip — even with each other. Next time you’re not sure whether you’re drifting into those waters, ask yourselves these questions:

Does the matter involve me personally? If someone said something cruel or unfair to me, of course I would be upset, and letting my spouse know why I am angry is only natural. If I am simply repeating what I heard about somebody else just for the shock value, this tale probably doesn’t warrant retelling.

What is my motivation for sharing this information? By telling my spouse something negative about another person, am I looking for a solution to an injustice or just wallowing in wrath? If I truly desire to help the person, or seek justice for myself or others, my spouse may be able to help me navigate through my emotions and find the most Christian resolution.

What effect will my conversation have on my spouse’s perception of the person? For example, if the only time I ever speak about a particular co-worker or friend is when this individual does something dumb, I am creating a terrible image of that person in my spouse’s mind. He may really be a great all-around guy, but if I only talk about his blunders, she’ll only know him as a caricature.

If the tables were turned, would I want this information shared about me? Here we simply apply the Golden Rule: If I would be embarrassed to have this said about me, I should pause before I spill it about another.

Might sharing this information help protect others from harm? If another person’s actions have caused harm or may cause harm, speaking about it to defend others is perfectly legitimate.

If the topic is legitimate to speak about, are we careful to limit it only to each other? Helping each other out as a sounding board is fine, as long as the conversation goes no further. Be sure not to pass it on, and especially be sure to have the conversation privately and out of earshot of any curious children.

If you devote yourself to some reflection before speaking, you will go a long way toward avoiding saying something you may come to regret. You can’t go wrong if you strive to always guide your conversation back to what is true and beautiful.

The McDonalds are family-life directors for

the Archdiocese of Mobile, Alabama.

Cistercian Father Thomas Esposito says of discerning one’s college choice, ‘There has to be something that tugs at you and makes you want to investigate it further. And then the personal encounter comes in the form of a visit or a chat with a student or alumnus who communicates with the same enthusiasm or energy about the place. And then that love of a place can be a seed which germinates in your own heart through prayer.’

Choose a College With a Discerning Mind and Heart

Cistercian Father Thomas Esposito, assistant professor of theology at the University of Dallas (UD) and subprior (and former vocations director) of the Cistercian Abbey of Our Lady of Dallas, drew from his experience as both a student and now monastic religious to help those discerning understand the parallels between religious and college discernment.