Gossip is one of those sins that is remarkably evasive and, in my experience, seldom taken seriously. Gossip is difficult to describe and easy to categorize away, making it easier and easier for Christians to fall into the habit of gossip. For instance, most would agree that you are not gossiping when you discuss the weakest points of a candidate with other interviewers in a hiring process. In fact, addressing the weak points can help determine if the role is good for the candidate and open up areas for further improvement. On the other side, it is fairly obvious one gossips when their conversations are focused on the failings of another without any desire to see them improved. Yet what about the small jokes we make about one another? These jokes that we would not make to the person’s face but seem relatively innocuous to say for a quick laugh are more problematic than they would initially seem.
I am under the strong suspicion that the evil of gossiping grows out of the desire to see others fail in comparison to you – envy, in other words. While gossiping may not necessarily be tied to envy, I find myself feeling the small bits of happiness when I see myself measure up favorably against another person. Along with this happiness is a desire to share with others how good I have it compared to this poor “other: person. A common phrasing:
“We are so blessed we are not like…[insert gossip here]”
In pondering how easy it is to think in a gossiping manner, I have found myself looking for an antidote. In one small way, I have found it in the joy I experience when a close friend or family member experiences success. While I confess not to feel this joy about those people more distant from me, I do feel a real sense of excitement and happiness when others in my life achieve something they had not previously thought was possible to achieve. In fact, when these celebrations happen, I want to share the story with other mutual friends and spread the joy in another’s success.
For example, when my brother was applying to work in research at a hospital and the hiring process kept dragging on, he took the initiative to go into the facility and talk with the person face to face as he handed in his resume. This initiative is very lacking in most hires today. I was quite proud of him for it. He ended up with the job! This is a small story I shared with my friends when it happened. I still bring it up today whenever the topic of initiative in the professional world comes up.
I have been trying to make an effort to engage in more of this “anti-gossip” or spreading good things about others whenever I find the opportunity. Speaking about the qualities of others, whether in large groups or one-on-one conversations, has helped me identify and avoid envious feelings that may arise. This has the impact of undermining gossip at its core and can help generate a culture of conversation that does not naturally create a home for gossip.
So, who are you proud of today?