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Gossip has often been considered a ‘soft sin’ a sin which isn’t all that bad, fairly low on the totem pole of sins. However in actuality, this is a serious matter. Gossip has the power to destroy reputations and relationships by allowing lies, half truths and truths that are not ours to tell to pass through our lips and into the hearts of our hearers. The destruction is twofold. We can distort the reputation of a person by speaking about things that are not ours to say, and make it both confusing and difficult for them to be perceived by another for who they actually are, and for others to relate to the person they are encountering VS who they’ve heard them to be.
We know from Matthew 12:36, that we will have to give an account for every careless word that we have spoken, not just the malicious ones.
As well as this, we destroy our own friendships when we gossip to our friends. The friendship eventually becomes a toxic relationship which leads us away from God via the folly of gossip. We’ve spoken about this several times on the podcast when it comes to building trust and Braving – vault – is important, keeping to ourselves what is not meant to be shared with others builds trust. Without trust a friendship cannot last.
What follows in this episode is a look at the way Gossip can manifest and how might avoid it.
The ‘pursuit of knowledge that is not proper to your state in life’. E.g., Serpent spoke to Eve, which is not proper to its being. Eve should have rejected Satan because she knew better than to listen to an animal talk which shouldn’t be able to speak.
Being curious of things one doesn’t need to know. We might hear things or see things which make us curious to know more about a particular situation or relationship. For instance, we might see two people, a man and a woman enjoying each others company. Do we then go and ask other people about the nature of that relationship? Or seeing a two friends who are not so friendly at the moment, do I ask around, or enquire directly despite the fact that it’s not something I need to know. Often we mask curiosity with ‘Oh I just want to know so that I can pray for them,’ when in fact, its more likely ‘I just want to know.’
Detraction – tear another’s reputation down
E.g., we’re always tearing down our leaders – none of them are perfect and they make terrible mistakes, so let’s not put them on a pedestal. This happens frequently with pastors, priests, Pope and bishops. Popes and bishops are human and able to make mistakes. Talking about them disparagingly is not okay.
Aquinas – conditions for saying something bad about someone
- What is said is just i.e., it’s factual, and accurate (not exaggerated)
- Charitable to tell – is it loving to tell them about this?
- Necessary to tell – do they need to know?
This is separating one person’s affection with another (talking about people behind their backs).
- Judgy – making sure others don’t like them.
- Speaking to people quietly to other people to separate them – comes from malice.
Malice = not necessarily coming from evil; rather choosing the lesser good over the detriment of the greater. E.g., when you’re hurting – complaining to someone else about your friends shortcomings instead of taking it up with your friend directly. There is something quite wicked in this. We can see this happening when unchecked jealousy is at play. When someone might have a fear of losing a friend due to that friend having another friendship which has a similar level of depth to the one they already share, there may be a temptation to tear that friendship down through murmuring.
- Bringing other people down by saying something false about someone.
- Satisfying the person’s desire to want to bring someone down – malice.
This is often what the Catholic Church calls grave matter. One of the conditions necessary for mortal sin.
Overcoming Gossip – Particular examen
Identify where gossip happens in your relationships and with those friends try and empathise and then re-direct. If re-direct isn’t possible, some hard questions have to be asked as to whether or not this relationship can continue.
Intentionally create new habits. We ought to try and catch ourselves as we start gossip, and intentionally move conversation away. Accountability partners can be so helpful in this regard!
Identify who we gossip about and ask the question why? What does it reveal about us? Are there any insecurities or needs not being met, that we’re trying to meet by engaging in gossip? Are there more positive ways to meet these? For instance, if we gossip about someone because we perceive them as threat at our place of work because they are more efficient than we are. Perhaps we need to ask, why are we threatened? What can we do about that feeling without hurting someone else? These are questions to bring to a trusted friend, pastor, and even a counselor if required.
Need for connection
Sometimes people gossip because there’s an unmet need for connection. As humans we crave connection with others, and by way of gossipping we can feel like we’re either connected to the people we’re gossiping about OR the person we’re gossipping to. It creates a kind of bond and relationship that may be filling the gap for a meaningful connection or relationship that we’re currently lacking. If that resonates, invest energy into reaching out to people, make new friends through exploring new interests, or work on deepening existing relationships.
Gossiping leaves us dissatisfied
Something about identifying the sour taste that gossipping leaves behind. It makes us feel like we’re going to get something good out of this, powerful even, but it leaves us dissatisfied and empty. We’ve gained nothing, and in reality only lost more every time. Whereas putting out focus and fixing our gaze and hearts on higher things will be far more edifying.
TBG (Truth, Beauty, Goodness)
Padre: Song: Matt Maher and Steffany Gretzinger: The Centre of all history