YOU KNOW WHY I like sports fans? I mean, the super die-hard, deeply-absorbed ones? Because, when they "gossip," it's about trades, batting averages, free agents and wild card races. Most of them don't care what you do for a living or what you did last summer.
Take my friend Dave, a.k.a. "Ouza." Dave likes the Giants, a lot. He also likes the Mets. Everything else is only marginally interesting. Everyone likes Dave. Dave doesn't want to hear about who's dating whom or what a rotten guy someone is, no less express an opinion about it. Dave just wants to watch the game. So, please stop talking.
|I did not ask Ouza's permission to use this photo. He won't care.|
What is slander, anyway? St. Anthony proposes, "It's anything you wouldn't dare say in front of the person whom we are complaining about.” Pretty clear. They're not here. They won't see the text message (at least not immediately). Would I say it? Would I hit "send?"
Gossip, suggests St. John Chrysostom, should offend me. Why? Well, he puts it like this: "If a person stirred up a cesspool as you were walking past, wouldn't you berate him?" Put another way, if you were standing near a muddy puddle and someone drove straight into the puddle, wouldn't it bother you? If so, he continues, then why not also be offended at the person detailing another person's bad deeds? "The exposure of an offensive life," he notes, "offends and disturbs the soul of those who hear of it."
And, if we can't discourage others, let's at least not pitch in our two cents. St. Isaac of Syria writes, "If you are not a peacemaker, at least do not be a troublemaker. If you cannot close the mouth of a man who disparages his companion, at least refrain from joining him in this.”
Besides, what's the real attraction of gossip? St. Seraphim of Sarov has an idea: "We condemn others only because we shun knowing ourselves." He continues,
When we gaze at our own failings, we see such a swamp that nothing in another can equal it. That is why we turn away, and make much of the faults of others.We need assurance that other people's lives are scrambled, too. He proposes a better way:
Instead of condemning others, strive to reach inner peace. Keep silent, refrain from judgment. This will raise you above the deadly arrows of slander, insult and outrage and will shield your glowing hearts against all evil.We might even take our eagerness for gossip as a gentle ping, signalling that we need to stop and look inside.
And, for Heaven's sake, find yourself a hobby or something.