In celebration of the release of Pope Francis’s book, The Church of Mercy, several of our dotMagis bloggers will be sharing reflections based on the words of Pope Francis.
Few of us gossip out of delight in maligning another. My suspicion is that most gossip arises from either a misguided desire to defend oneself against another who is perceived as harmful, or in order to connect more strongly to others in our social groups.
When in conflict with another, it’s common to talk to one’s friends in order to sort out one’s feelings and discern how next to act. Certainly in many friendships, conversations are often centered on discussing relationships with others and offering advice and support. How, then, can we avoid gossip?
Pope Francis’s words offer us a clue as to where to draw the line between gossip and heartfelt conversation: does the conversation aim to work toward unity and reconciliation, or is its aim self-assertion or putting down others?
A Jewish tale tells the story of a man with a tendency toward gossip who went to see a rabbi. The rabbi asked the man to bring him a pillow full of feathers. They then went to the highest floor of a tall building where the rabbi asked the man to cut open the pillow and let the feathers fly. He then instructed the man to gather up all of the feathers. The man was horrified at the impossibility of the task, for they were now widespread. He realized the ways in which gossip spreads in directions that he never intended, and went home contrite and determined not to gossip further.
I suggest four ways to avoid the temptation to gossip and criticism:
- We can meditate frequently on our own shortcomings and how we might feel if our shortcomings spread like feathers.
- We can speak directly to those with whom we are in conflict rather than using gossip as a passive substitute for active dialogue.
- In interpersonal difficulties, we can ask our friends to help us to see our own shortcomings in the situation and the other’s good. Here, true friends help us work toward restoring unity in relationships.
- We can actively meditate upon some good character trait of the person whom we are tempted to malign. Gratitude for others’ good gifts is a natural antidote to criticism and gossip.
What would you add to the list?
This is one of my major downfalls. I pray for the person with whom I gossip about and at times it goes away faster.
I decided to stop gossiping when I realized that it was uncharitable and offensive to Jesus’ command: “Love one another as I have loved you.” This was enough to make me try to change my ways, so when I found myself judging or criticizing others, including in my thoughts, I said this quick prayer, “Lord, bless him/her/them and convert me.” Little by little, and aided by frequent Confession of this sin, I was freed of my bad habit of looking down on others because I did not like or agreed with their actions or ideas. The best part was that it resulted in enriching my prayer life and sent me on a “mission” to pray for everyone, no matter how offensive, obnoxious, or scandalous the person’s behavior was. God bless. +
We can stop and reflect how the person we are gossiping about might feel if they knew what we were saying.
We can ask ourself how we would feel if our shortcomings were being discussed in this way
5. Let’s remind ourselves that what’s more important than defending or justifying ourselves is that God knows what’s in our heart even better than we do. And thank God that He loves us anyway! 🙂
6. Whenever i become aware of my pettiness (i think rumor-mongering is for people who don’t have other better things to do with their time/life), i pray, “Lord, there is so much darkness in me! Have mercy on me and be the Light that dispels my darkness!”
7. Ask ourselves why we’re inclined to gossip. Perhaps it’s something we learned from our environment growing up? Or we’ve got too much idle time in our hands? It might also help to be reminded of the fact that we are not mere products of our past or upbringing or environment. We can choose at any time to stop gossiping and start building people up instead.
A friend told me of a short prayer she uses in difficult situations: “Thank you, God, for loving [name].” I find that using her prayer tempers my own hard feelings–and is a great preliminary step to approaching people when mending my own difficult situations. I also like the notion of giving gossip more constructive attention–and the six steps mentioned here! Thank you.
I like this prayer and will add to my list of short prayers to pray in challenging relational times. Thank you for sharing
Thank you for the prayer suggestion!
5. We can remind ourselves that God loves the person we are tempted to
malign as much as he loves ourselves.
6. We can probably wait 24 hours before opening our mouths and use those extra hours to re-examine our motives.
Good post, thank you.
Great additions, thanks!