The first time I cried in college, it was because of gossip.
I was seventeen. You’d think a high-school graduate would be more resilient to something as simple as gossip, but I wasn’t. I recall that bus ride going home, sitting on dust-encrusted seats and yellowed plastic, folded bus tickets peeping from between the little cushions, and I couldn’t stop sobbing from this weird weight on my chest.
Why would they say that?
What a question.
Why would they say that, though? In fact, in general, why would anyone say that?
We all know that gossip—that is, speaking wrongly about another person when that person isn’t around—is bad. And it ranges from that’s-terrible-etiquette bad to that’s-ruining-someone-else’s-life bad. What’s so wrong with a little storytelling? I can tell you what’s wrong with it:
Gossip highlights the worst parts of our hearts.
When we gossip, we aren’t just talking about someone else wrongly behind their backs. We’re also encouraging the dark parts of our character. We all know that talking about someone else is like stabbing them in the back. But after the deed is done, the evidence is in our hands, dripping with the poison of our words. Ultimately, gossiping says more about our character than it does of the other person.
Gossip stays and stays… even when it’s not true.
You know that one time, that one person did the thing, and it spread around like wildfire? We all know cases of “excessive storytelling” that went a little haywire. We’ve all contributed at one point. We saw the fire, we stopped to look, and we sprinkled a little gasoline to see more of the pyrotechnics. The problem is, we’re so caught up in the drama and explosions, we often forget that there’s a person behind that brightness. Fire is entertaining, except to the one who’s burning. Scars stay, you know. And yes, this is a metaphor, but people will still be talking about the fireworks and explosions long after the issue has been resolved.
Gossip is unjust in its harm.
With gossip, there is unjust judgment against another person, without them being able to speak for themselves. When someone gossips about you, you’re helpless. You can’t defend your actions or explain your motives. Your story is automatically corrected, edited, revised and redone by people who don’t really know what happened. It’s like skipping due trial and being found guilty, even before anyone reviewed your case. It simply isn’t fair.
Gossip destroys relationships.
It’s funny that the word “gossip” actually has its root words from “God” and “sib”, which is where you get “sibling”. Godsib referred to a friend that you were super close to and were practically related to (think godparents). Eventually, it simply referred to someone you shared secrets with, and then it became the word for “secrets”… about other people’s lives. The trust that you once shared with a “godsib” has been replaced by the shallow, temporary, and trust-destroying “excitement” of gossip. What could have been a wonderful word that refers to friendship became a word that refers to something that damages friendships.
I don’t think I’ve ever needed to convince someone of the evils of gossip. Everyone knows it. You’d sooner confess to theft and murder than confess to gossiping.
So, how about this. How about every time we think about talking about another person behind their back, let’s stop. Let’s keep our hearts and tongues in check and not contribute to a very unfruitful pastime. Let’s restore the trust and confidentiality of what it meant to have a friend that is practically family. And let’s develop in ourselves that aspect of love that always protects, because in the end, it’s our character that will reap the benefits.