From the Book of Ben Sira:
One who trusts others too quickly has a shallow mind, and one who sins does wrong to himself. One who rejoices in wickedness will be condemned, but one who hates gossip has less evil. Never repeat a conversation, and you will lose nothing at all. With friend or foe do not report it, and unless it would be a sin for you, do not reveal it; for someone may have heard you and watched you, and in time will hate you. Have you heard something? Let it die with you. Be brave, it will not make you burst!
(From the Daily Office Lectionary – Sirach 19:4-10 – October 29, 2012)
Don’t you just love gossip? That juicy little tid-bit that you just can’t wait to pass on to a friend? It’s so wonderfully delicious, that little bit of o-so-salacious information about some mutual acquaintance? C’mon, admit it! You just love it. We all do. It’s human nature.
Gossip is probably the most common problems in human relationships. It is insidious; most people don’t even realize when a discussion turns towards gossip, but gossip can kill a relationship. It happens much more often than we would like to admit. In simple terms, gossip basically is that could be seen as a negative spoken about one person to another when the subject is not there to hear it first hand and respond. It could be something seemingly innocent said without intent to harm, or it could be a harsh, intentional slander or assisination of character.
Gossip has many dangers. Just a few are
- hurt feelings
- destroys cooperation
- discourages the sharing of vulnerability
- creates (or destroys) reputations
- damages trust
We can all agree with Ben Sira that gossip should be avoided! The British Baptist preacher Alan Redpath is said to have had a rule to avoid gossip. He told himself “Think!” and asked himself five questions:
T – Is it true?
H – Is it helpful?
I – Is it inspiring?
N – Is it necessary?
K – Is it kind?
If what one is about to say does not pass those tests, Redpath said, keep your mouth shut! That’s about as good a paraphrase of Ben Sira’s advice as I can think of. “Be brave, it will not make you burst!”
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Father Funston is the rector of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Medina, Ohio.