Francis of Sales
Once a lady approached St. Francis of Sales for counseling. She confided with him that she speaks often of the negative things of her husband to her friend. She confessed that she could not get away from this habit. St. Francis of Sales told her to go to the market and buy a hen and on her way back she has to remove the feathers one by one and throw them on the way and return to him. She did exactly what St. Francis of Sales told her. Again he asked her to go back to the market and pick up the feathers thrown on the way. She went back to the market place searching for the feathers on the way. But she could not find them as they were blown away by the wind. She came back to St. Francis of Sales and told him that she could not find the feathers back. St. Francis of Sales told her that by gossiping about others she destroys the reputation of others and she can never bring back the good name of others.
What is Gossip?
It is a loose talk about the negative side of the people. It injects venom into society’s bloodstream. It wrecks marriages, rips families asunder, turns bosom pals into backstabbers, sinks careers and sends reputations into a death bed. In fact it is every evildoer’s dream, a non violent weapon of mass destruction. This is why St. James says’ “And the tongue is a fire. The tongue is an unrighteous world among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the cycle of nature” (James 3:6).
Why people indulge in gossip?
People indulge in gossip to become popular. In fact gossip brings people of varying social classes on an equal footing. We can find a kind of leveling that is achieved in every afternoon when housewives came together in their free time possibly to discuss about their neighbor in the next door. It creates a bonding among themselves. It makes people to listen to them very attentively with great curiosity.
There are other reasons why people gossip. Those who suffer inferiority complex, it becomes a means of outlet. Those who have presumption, think that they are important people and there are not being recognized by others. When their aspirations are not fulfilled they use gossip as a weapon to attack others and give vent to their displeasure and anger. There are some others who cannot face directly their problems of their life; they find satisfaction indirectly by gossiping about others. There may be others who gossip about the weakness of others in order to hide their own weakness from others.
In case, someone speaks good of others such as “Johny does a lot of charity”; “Tom gives free tuition to the poor children” and “Jack visits every week the old age home”, there would be conscipicuous drop in the listenership. Speaking and hearing no evil, does not interest the mortals engrossed.
Gossip is possible only when something is in the private domain. Once an event becomes public knowledge, it stops being “gossipable”. What people gossip are those embarrassing eccentricities or the nuggets that he or she would prefer to keep under the carpet. That is why the gossipers have no pangs of conscience when they sit down with friends and set the ball rolling. They entertain people as an unique way of “time – Pass”.
The rise of social media has made gossip simpler to transmit than ever before. You need not go to any tea shop as our forefathers were doing or walk to the water cooler as office executives do now. Technology has made it possible for us e-gossip while we are whiling away the time in our cozy sofa. Let us remember the words of the book of Sirach “Make balances and scales for your words, and make a door and a bolt for your mouth. Beware lest you err with your tongue”. (Sirach 28:25-26)
What ever may be the motives of our gossips, one thing is sure – “If you talk about others, others will definitely talk about you”. Let us remember the Chinese Proverb, “The wind sweeping through the towers, heralds a storm rising in the mountains”.
Most Rev. Dr. M. Devadass Ambrose
Bishop of Thanjavur