“It’s so rotten, gossip. At the beginning, it seems to be something enjoyable and fun, like a piece of candy. But at the end, it fills the heart with bitterness and also poisons us,” Pope Francis says “I tell you the truth,” he preached to the crowds filling St. Peter’s Square. “I am convinced that if each one of us would purposely avoid gossip, at the end, we would become a saint! It’s a beautiful path!”
Let us Not Choose GOSSIP & SLANDER
If there is one challenge our community is unwilling to face up to, it is accepting and then being empathetic on GOSSIP / SLANDER. I know of many people in our community, including the clergy and their bosses, which to this day has been in denial about GOSSIPING. Our community is riddled with taboos when it comes to gossiping. Look around and you will observe how sad it has gotten into. Our community is perhaps the most unfriendly and unhelpful when it comes to gossiping / slandering. We have absolutely no idea on how to get out of the habit of gossiping / slandering
Religious orders and communities must combat “the terrorism of gossip,” which is even worse than an occasional physical confrontation. The way members of religious orders live should attract people to Christ and the church, and should be a model for other Catholics of creating harmony among a varied group of people thrown together by a common call. However our clergy and their bosses are not supposed to ever admit that they were wrong. It is just that the community has not understood them
Gossip, viewed over time, has been likened to a room with two doors, one of which admits new players, the other providing an exit for those who think that all is over. The room itself is growing, with the expansion of new gossips; only the participants change. The rate of change generally speeds up when someone is against or jealous or wants to take revenge on another and spread it at community group discussion or meetings or on whatapps, etc.
There was this story going about a certain Auntie M… Auntie M was a flight engineer on a plane in the Gulf War and her plane got shot down. She had to bail out over enemy territory and all she had was a bottle of rum, a machine gun and a machete. She drank the rum on the way down so it wouldn’t break and then she landed right in the middle of 100 enemy troops. She killed seventy of them with the machine gun until she ran out of bullets. Then she killed twenty more with the machete until the blade broke. And then she killed the last ten with her bare hands.” Good Heavens,” said the horrified neighbors on hearing this story, “what a horrible woman” Nobody bothered to check the facts but all said “Stay away from Auntie M.” Subsequently as the story was being passed on from one to another and to the whole community more “masala” / other imaginary things was added to this story of Auntie M resulting in Auntie M… being ignored and cut out by the neighbors / community. Later a neighbor who repeated this gossip learnt that it was not true but could not do anything to undo the damage.
An old proverb relates the story of a person who repeated gossip—some rumor about a neighbor. Soon, the whole community had heard the rumor. Later, the person who spread the gossip learned that the rumor was untrue. The person was very sorry and went to an elder in the community who had a reputation for great wisdom to seek advice. The elder told the person, “Go to your home and take a feather pillow outside. Rip it open and scatter the feathers, then return to me tomorrow.” The person did as the elder had instructed. The next day, the person visited the elder. The elder said, “Go and collect the feathers you scattered yesterday and bring them back to me.” The person went home and searched for the feathers, but the wind had carried them all away. The person returned to the elder and said, “I could find none of the feathers I scattered yesterday.” “You see,” said the elder, “it’s easy to scatter the feathers but impossible to get them back.” So it is with gossip; it doesn’t take much to spread hurtful words, but once you do, you can never completely undo the damage.
Gossip is a bad thing when it is not true or can harm someone else in a bad way. Can we gossip, sure! But not if someone gets hurt by it. As it says in the short story, you can gossip about everything but you can’t take the words you said once you open your mouth.
Do not let the terrorism of gossip exist among you. Throw it out. Let there be fraternity. And if you have something against your brother, tell him to his face. Sometimes it might end in fisticuffs that are not a problem. It’s always better than the terrorism of gossip. Rather than following this way our community has done themselves to death by denial.
Let me assert my firm belief that the only thing our community has to fear is gossip / slander — nameless, unreasoning, unjustified talk which paralyzes needed efforts to get all of the neighbors/colleagues/etc to work collectively and happily as a community/team. Gossip can grip us; choke all faith out of our hearts. Gossip also drives economic depression. Gossip causes the community to contract and brings unpleasantnesses and bitterness resulting in people avoiding and stop talking to each other. It causes panic in the community. Gossip itself constitutes a large part of the problems we face.
There is this story of how Socrates the Greek Philosopher handled gossip by putting the gossiper thru a test; perhaps you could give it a shot. Keep this in mind the next time you are about to repeat a rumor or spread gossip! In ancient Greece (469 – 399 BC), Socrates was widely lauded for his wisdom. One day an acquaintance ran up to him excitedly and said, “Socrates, do you know what I just heard about Diogenes?” “Wait a moment,” Socrates replied, “Before you tell me I’d like you to pass a little test. It’s called the Triple Filter Test.”
‘Triple filter?” asked the acquaintance.
“That’s right,” Socrates continued, “Before you talk to me about Diogenes let’s take a moment to filter what you’re going to say..
The first filter is Truth. Have you made absolutely sure that what you are about to tell me is true?” “No,” the man said, “Actually I just heard about it.” “All right,” said Socrates, “So you don’t really know if it’s true or not. Now let’s try the second filter, the filter of Goodness. Is what you are about to tell me about Diogenes something good?” “No, on the contrary…”
“So,” Socrates continued, “You want to tell me something about Diogenes that may be bad, even though you’re not certain it’s true?”
The man shrugged, a little embarrassed. Socrates continued, “You may still pass the test though, because there is a third filter, the filter of Usefulness. Is what you want to tell me about Diogenes going to be useful to me?”
“No, not really.”
“Well,” concluded Socrates, “If what you want to tell me is neither True nor Good nor even useful, why tell it to me or anyone at all?”
The man was bewildered and ashamed. This is an example of why Socrates was a great philosopher and held in such high esteem.
On a silver lining our Pope Francis puts it in a simpler way and emphasized during his homily on Feb 16th 2015 the importance of avoiding all forms of gossip / slander in living a Christian life. “It’s so rotten, gossip. At the beginning, it seems to be something enjoyable and fun, like a piece of candy. But at the end, it fills the heart with bitterness and also poisons us,” Pope Francis says “I tell you the truth,” he preached to the crowds filling St. Peter’s Square. “I am convinced that if each one of us would purposely avoid gossip, at the end, we would become a saint! It’s a beautiful path!”
Jesus offers the example of the Fifth Commandment, “Do not kill,” and goes on to add, “but I say to you: Whoever is angry with his brother will be guilty before the court.” “With this, Jesus reminds us that even words can kill,” explained the Pope. “When it is said that someone has the ‘tongue of a serpent,’ what does it mean? That his words kill.”
“Therefore, not only must one not make an attempt on the life of others, but one must not even pour on him the poison of anger and hit him with slander, nor speak ill of him. And here we arrive at gossip. Gossip can also kill, because it kills the reputation of the person,” stressed the Holy Father.
Jesus proposes another way to his followers, “the perfection of love: a love in which the only measure is not to measure, but to go beyond all calculating.” This Christian path of loving one’s neighbor is “so fundamental that Jesus comes to say that our relationship with God cannot be honest if we do not want to make peace with our neighbor.”
The Pope then summarized, “From all of this, one understands that Jesus does not give importance simply to disciplinary observance and exterior conduct. He goes to the root of the Law, focusing above all on the intention and then on the human heart, from where our good or bad actions originate.
“Good and honest behavior,” he said, does not come merely from “juridical norms,” but, rather, requires “profound motivation, expressions of a hidden wisdom, the wisdom of God, which can be received by the grace of the Holy Spirit.” It is the Holy Spirit who “renders us capable of living Divine love” and following “the greatest commandment: Love God with all your heart, and love your neighbor as yourself.”
It is a shame then that in spite of our Pope Francis emphasizing that gossip is rotten and must not be avoided our community is still in denial and unwilling to act. It is time we develop a heart for matters that have to be avoided. This is the only way to help everyone in our community.