05 April 2013

The dark joy of gossip

OY! The Holy Father is hitting close to home with this one:

“I don’t know why, but there is a dark joy in gossiping. Sometimes we begin by saying nice things about another, but then we slip into gossip, making the object of our chatter merchandise to be bartered. Let us ask forgiveness because when we do this to a friend, we do it to Jesus, because Jesus is in this friend.”

I learned the Dark Art of Gossiping in grad school. Note: I'd been gossiping long before grad school, but being a grad student in a humanities department made it necessary for me to perfect the art and use it with deadly cunning. That's not an excuse, by the way. It's just the reality. No one survives grad school w/o learning how to gossip strategically. When your whole career depends entirely on the mercurial judgments of not-always-right-in-the-head professors, you learn to sniff out the useful tid-bits and nurture them dearly.

So, why is gossip a problem for Christians? Most of the time gossip arises out of a lack of charity, a desire to hurt someone, or see them fail. Charity is the virtue of willing the Good for another, so there's almost no chance that gossip will result in anything approaching love. 

How to get rid of the nasty habit? Replace it with a good habit. Bite your tongue--mine is deeply scarred. Count to ten before snapping at any Gossip Bait. . .

Suggestions? I'm still working on ridding myself of several Dark Arts I acquired while in grad school. Gossiping is not the worst of the lot. . .

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  1. Undergrad humanities gossip was bad enough - I'm glad I didn't pursue a graduate degree where it would have needed to be perfected. What cured me of any proclivity toward gossip was walking into more than one situation where people were gossiping about me, not knowing I was there. So when I am tempted to gossip, or am in a situation where gossip is occuring, I think back to my own experiences.

    Now, "venting"...that's a different story altogether!

    I think we all have Dark Arts we need to rid ourselves of - I know I certainly do! I've actually found frequent confession to be quite helpful :-).

  2. One of the evolutionary biological theories about the origin of language is that it started with gossip. Either a vocal form of primate grooming, or a way to alert group members about freeloaders. Perhaps some of its dark pleasure derives from its antiquity.

  3. Anonymous1:39 PM

    Not speaking of the person unless present? Or imagining them sitting in front of me. I am still working on uncharitable thoughts.