Why do we gossip?
1. “Because we have nothing better to do, to make time pass.”
2. “I think to feel better about ourselves and to attach ourselves to the people that we’re gossiping about, and to connect.”
3. “We want to compare our own to theirs. We want to see that they’re just as fallible as we are, that they make just as many mistakes.”
4. “Most likely because it’s kind of fun and it’s kind of interesting, and it plays to that low pot of everybody…it’s the one time we get to forget about our own flaws and focus on other people’s.”
5. “It makes people feel better to talk about other people’s damage and brokenness.”
6. “It seems inbuilt in human nature. I suppose the person who is gossiping gets a certain sort of satisfaction out of what they’re saying, even though it may not be very pleasant or very nice, it may be harmful.”
Gossip. It happens every day, we all do it, and we are all affected by it. The answers given by the people in this video perhaps reflect what we ourselves might feel, and reasons we too have for talking about others, even if we don’t intend anything malicious by doing so. However, no matter our reasons, gossip hurts, and although it might appear to be a small fault that won’t cause any serious, lasting damage to anyone, it is one of the topics Pope Francis has dedicated many speeches to since beginning his pontificate nearly 18 months ago.
In a Sept. 14, 2013 homily, the pontiff spoke of Christian murder, saying that it’s the Lord who talks about “Christian murderers” in scripture and “there is no place for nuances. If you speak ill of your brother, you kill your brother. And every time we do this, we are imitating that gesture of Cain, the first murderer in History.”
“Gossip always has a criminal side to it,” he cautioned, “There is no such thing as innocent gossip.”
A few days after Valentines Day this year, on Feb. 16, the pontiff spoke about gossip again, saying that “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…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!”
“Do we want to become saints? Yes or no?” he asked the crowds that day, who met his question with a resounding “yes!”
“Yes? Do we want to live attached to gossip as a habit? Yes or no? No? Ok, so we are in agreement! No gossip!”
And these are only a few examples of the Pope’s words – he has in fact dedicated at least two or three other speeches and homilies to the topic, including a speech to seminarians earlier this summer stating that gossip is not just something ascribed to women, as can often be thought, but it’s something that everyone does and it has the power to destroy communities.
But does the Pope really mean this? That gossiping kills my brother, and is an act of “Christian murder?” Does he really mean to say that we are doing something as serious as imitating Cain’s act of hatred in killing his brother Abel?
When we look to the 10 commandments, we find that to gossip, to speak ill of our brothers and sisters in Christ, in fact falls underneath the premise of the 5th commandment of “Do not kill,” because so often we “kill” or damage the reputation of another when we do it, and many times in ways that are irreparable, like the man in the video who said that a friendship was ruined due to a letter he had read in which his friend wrote things about him that were blatantly uncharitable and perhaps untrue.
What we need to do then, is to recover a sense of mercy; a fraternal understanding that the person standing next to me is a human being whose dignity extends beyond whatever immediate judgments we might make or whichever opinions we might hold. And this begins with small, simple, daily acts of love, humility, meekness, docility to the Holy Spirit and generosity toward others.
[pullquote align=”right”]“Yes? Do we want to live attached to gossip as a habit? Yes or no? No? Ok, so we are in agreement! No gossip!”[/pullquote]
Thinking like an Apostle:
An activity to do with youth could be to have them think of a time when they gossiped about someone else, and a time when they themselves were affected by gossip, and write down a concrete, realistic solution for that week to not do it, or at least to be more aware of when they do do it.
A seemingly passive solution can be the most active one, whether it be to change the subject when a friend is talking about someone else, or to hold one’s own tongue or say something positive when tempted to speak bad about someone else. It’s the small, everyday steps that add up to the big ones.