Before your speak, let your words pass through three gates: It is true, is it necessary, is it kind. Rumi
Gossip ~ the act of tearing others apart. We are all guilty of it at one time or another. It is a casual and thoughtless pastime that many have perfected ~ reveling in the shortcomings, mishaps or unfortunate situations of others. These conversations serve to distract from another’s accolades and paint what are often embellished or untrue stories that become forever burned into people’s memory.
And while many us would not walk up to someone with a physical altercation, we seem to have complete disregard for the possible injurious impact of our words. Perhaps we partake in this insidious act as a response to the boredom of our own lives; or it may well be the result of some unspoken hierarchy which we are constantly attempting to climb ~ a baseless notion that you are able to lift your social status by pushing others down; or maybe it is a distraction technique, diverting our attention from our own trials and tribulations; it may even be the result of one’s need for attention. Whatever the underlying reason, it remains a mean-spirited and thoughtless act.
There is a story about a person who was known as the village gossip. One day, the spiritual leader in the village called the gossip over to speak with her. The leader told the gossip to get a pillow of feathers, to climb to the roof of the tallest building and to release all of the feathers into the wind. She then instructed him to go around and collect each and every feather and place them all back into the pillow. Bewildered, he replied that it would be impossible for him to collect all of the feathers as they had been blown all over. So too is the case with the stories we tell. Once the words are spoken (or written in the case of technology) they are unretrievable and we remain unaware of the ripple effect and the damage that they cause.
Really, the act of gossiping is really more telling of the speaker than the one spoken of. We cannot control the behavior of others, but we do get to choose what we put out into the world. So maybe the next time you find yourself engaged in this type of injurious conversation, you pause and consider the type of character you are trying to create for yourself. And should you be on the receiving end of this poor behavior, choose the higher ground and see the situation as one of growth, for it takes more faith and strength to practice compassion and forgiveness.
We all get to choose our spoken words, as well as the company we keep. Perhaps we should pay more attention to the character of those who gossip rather than to the stories they tell. I recently read a quote that says “…watch your words, they become actions; watch your actions, they become habits; watch your habits, they become character…” Unknown. And no matter what, try to cultivate compassion for ALL, even those with a loose tongue!