“Did you hear?”
“Can you believe it? Oh my God.”
“That’s crazy! I can’t wait to tell my other friend about this.”
She cheated on her husband. His dad left his mom for another man. That lady from yoga is secretly a drug addict. That woman’s parents are in prison, so no one should be her friend because obviously that stuff’s genetic. That couple over there has an open marriage, ewww. I would never do that. How slutty. Oh, and did you hear who hooked up last weekend after that party?
Statements like these are common. Most of us hear something along these lines at least once a day—probably more, especially if we watch TV.
We love gossip.
Our most popular forms of entertainment, such as reality shows, are essentially nothing more than gossip, and the majority of us, whether or not we realize it, are totally fascinated by the lives of others. Even our news has devolved into endless harping on the latest scandals, rather than real, important issues that people should actually be informed about.
Gossip is evil. It is low energy, and serves absolutely no purpose. Gossip brings us down, and prevents us from growing spiritually. Besides that, it’s a profound waste of time that could be used for making the world a safer, healthier, more beautiful place.
The problem is, none of us are immune. Gossip is sneaky, and often it hides in the form of genuine concern (when it’s really just judgment and hypocrisy). It creates suffering and exclusion, and breeds in misunderstandings, replacing meaningful communication with deception.
It prevents people from having open, honest, face to face discussions with each other, which is what we really need a lot more of in the world.
The most important thing to remembers about gossip is that it says far more about the person spreading it than it does about the subject. The Bible states that “a perverse person stirs up conflict, and a gossip separates close friends.” I can’t tell you how often I have seen this play out in real life.
So why do we love gossip so much?
Because it creates a false sense of superiority. It comes from a deep sense of insecurity. Truly healthy and secure people have no need to tear others down or make fun of their suffering in order to feel better about themselves.
Gossip is a form of bullying. What’s more, no one should have to explain their choices, their circumstances or their path in life because of someone else’s judgment. I don’t follow a lot of rules, but my guiding principle is to stay out of other people’s business, because we just never know what other people are going through. Gossip stands in the way of empathy and compassion.
For a long time, I wondered what to do when faced with gossip. I myself have been the victim of vicious slander. Over and over my family’s dirty laundry has been aired publicly, usually for sport, always with judgment, so I know well the pain that gossip causes, and I wanted to do something about it.
I want to help others deal with this situation and, if possible, extinguish it. Here are my suggestions for facing gossip:
If you or someone you love has been the victim of gossip or rumors, ignore it.
Don’t feed the monster. Don’t feel the need to explain or defend anything. This is a painful experience, so it’s okay to feel hurt, but try not to dwell on it too much. Instead, go off and be even more fabulous than you already are, because success is the best revenge.
If you’re up for it, do some volunteer work.
Helping others, especially when we haven’t been helped, is extremely healing and uplifting.
If gossip is being spread about someone else, call out the gossipers.
Be brave—because, remember, these are people with bad character and no one likes to have their own bad behavior pointed out. They’ll likely start gossiping about you next, so be prepared. Still, do it anyway.
Refuse to join in, and clearly state why.
Tell the gossipers that you refuse to indulge this. Explain that their judgment of another is wrong. If they don’t stop, leave and don’t look back.
It took me a long time to figure out what to do instead of gossiping. I knew that the best way to get people to change an unhealthy behavior was to replace it with something positive, but what?
“Great minds discuss ideas, average minds discuss events, and small minds discuss people.”
~ Eleanor Roosevelt
The trick is to inspire others to do good. Redirect the conversation from gossip toward helping. Start talking about problem-solving. Figure out ways to reduce suffering in the world, even on a very small scale. Think of how you can make someone else’s life better, happier, easier, more meaningful.
Ask yourself: Instead of talking about someone’s problems, what can I do to reach out and help?
When gossip surfaces, rise above it, suffocate its growth, condemn it—and spread joy and light in its place.
Author: Victoria Fedden
Image: Ben White/Unsplash
Editor: Toby Israel