Have you heard the latest about the Brangelina split? What about James Packer and Mariah Carey? And have you read about the latest Taylor Swift drama?
What about your friend, is he dating that girl yet? What about your other mates, are they still going through that stuff? Fill me in on the details, what’s the ‘Goss’?
It’s nothing to do with me and it’s none of my business but I’m curious, I want to know what’s going on. There’s no harm in it.
Am I the only one who’s said or thought this - or is gossiping something you indulge in too? I thought so. I’m never short of finding people to have a chinwag with, and it can be the easiest conversation to have. Someone’s picture comes up in your feed and you look at your friend, eyebrows raised and show her the picture “What’s going on there?” Or you see two people sat pretty close together, and think you can pick up what’s going on, shoot a quick message out saying “guess who I just saw together”. What’s the harm? It’s not hurting anybody. In the grand scheme of things, gossip isn’t really a big deal. Is it? Well this is what is what Pope Francis said recently about gossip.
“There is an internal and underground terrorism that is a bad habit to root out. I describe the bad habit of murmurings and gossip as a form of terrorism. It is a form of deep violence that we all have available in our soul and it requires a profound conversion”
Wow, that is an extreme response. Is he overreacting? Or does he actually have a point. There is a whole industry built around gossip - the magazines, celebrity watch TV shows, all those conversations we have about people we know and what’s going on for them, are they really ‘a form of terrorism … a deep violence?'
Well yes, actually it is.
Did your parents ever say to you as a kid, ‘sticks and stones can break your bones but words can never hurt you?’
What a load of rubbish!
When I think of the times of deep pain in my life, I don’t think about when I got a tooth knocked out playing hockey, when I got second degree burns while working at a bakery or when I was in labour with my daughter. I think of the times when my friends talked about me behind my back. I think about when rumours were spread and I lost relationships as a result. I think of a time not that long ago, when I felt so betrayed and let down.
I had been struggling with a decision, it was pretty clear one way or the other, but the result was going to have an impact on others and they were waiting for me to make a decision. It wasn’t an easy choice and it was a pretty private matter, so I went to somebody I trusted, told them the whole story and asked for their advice. It was good advice, but I still had to think hard before I made my choice. A few days later someone completely different came up to me and gave me their unsolicited advice about this big decision I had to make. I was crushed. How did they know? Who else knew? What had they said about me? There was only one place that information could have come from and I had been pretty clear how important this was to me, and how private the matter was. When I asked who told them, sure enough, it was the person I trusted. I did trust, but not anymore.
I had to move on from that and forgive the person who betrayed my trust. But our relationship took a beating. She’s not the one I go to anymore in those time of need. We lost something we used to have. Because of gossip.
So I understand why Pope Francis is so strong about this topic. I get that words can hurt just as much as sticks and stones. I get that the damage that can be done in just a few words can’t always be healed with just one ‘I’m sorry’.
Ask yourself is it worth it? That quick indulgence, being ‘in the know’, is it worth it? I don’t think it will be.
Pope Francis said in his quote ‘it requires a profound conversion’. So if you’re keen to stop this cycle and root out this bad habit here are 3 quick tips that can help.
1. Seek forgiveness.
Face up to what you’ve done! Just this week I called a friend and had to admit to say sorry for this very thing. It was hard but it was the right thing to do. Seek the forgiveness of God as well, go to the Sacrament of Reconciliation and take the chance to start afresh.
2. Stop it
Catch yourself, just before you go to say something ask yourself ‘Do I really need to know this information?’ Another food thing to ask yourself, would I be talking like this if (whoever you’re talking about) was there and could hear you? Maybe not.
3. Stop your friends
This is when it becomes ‘profound’. When you see someone else start to gossip try to change the subject and if they keep going tell them ‘Guys I’m don’t think we should be talking about this’. They will know why. They might laugh at you, say it’s no big deal or roll their eyes. Maybe that won’t stop them from gossiping with other people but they’ll learn that they can’t gossip with you, but they will also learn they can trust you to never talk about them behind their backs either. And what sort of friend would you rather be?