A Quote from the Holy Father Pope Francis on Gossip
“Unity is a grace for which we must ask the Lord, that he may liberate us from the temptation of division, of conflict between us, of selfishness and of gossip. How much evil gossip does, how much evil? Never gossip about others, never!” -General Audience, St. Peter’s Square, June 19, 2013
The Destructiveness of Gossip
Most likely, there is not a soul alive who likes being gossiped about by others. It is a thought none of us like to ponder that words are spoken about us when we are not present (or perhaps even when we are present) that would humiliate or sadden us. It is not a pleasant thought. Every human being has dignity through God because every person has been created by God. And gossip is like a knife to the heart of our dignity. As Catholics and as Christians, we are called by Jesus Christ to refrain from hating others by our words and actions. We are all called to love.
Every person in existence is called to love because God is our Creator and the one who gives us his own love to share with the world. So why do people use words to bring down others? Why do we choose to belittle others and cause scandal? Why do we share the secrets of others that may be true or untrue with our peers and/or family members? These are all good questions to ponder because in order to stop gossiping, we must first examine our own hearts and call on the Holy Spirit to help us to move in a better direction in loving our brothers and sisters. And that means all people, including those who are not exactly like us or who share our beliefs or cultural ways.
The Initial Key: Humility
In order to honor God more in our lives and stop gossiping, the initial key will always be humility. What is humility? In the simplest terms according to Merriam Webster’s definition, humility is the quality or state of not thinking you are better than other people: the quality or state of being humble. Our Catholic faith has much to say on humility and many of the saints speak of humility as the baseline for all the other virtues of God. Humility is the opposite of pride which is the root of most of the vices of our faith. Humility is that virtue that calls us out of our pride and calls us to imitate our Lord in his service and love of others through compassion. Humility is what helps us to see the bigger picture of who we are.
We are children of God who have been given the very gift of life and existence. Once we are able to see the clear picture of who we are, we can begin to see and understand that belittling others is an act of defiance against our Creator. It is a slap in the face to God to stand in his judgement seat of other people. Of course sin exists, and sometimes we can make observations of other’s lives toward the bad instead of toward the good. And through prayer and discernment we can help those people who have lost their way. But that is something much different than gossip. Gossip is always destructive. How can we stop ourselves from the practice of gossip and walk along the path of humility?
Examining Our Hearts Toward Humility
Knowing that humility is our baseline and our first step, we must go inside our hearts and ask the Lord how we can honor him more through avoiding gossip. This is not easy to do. But with God all things are possible! Prayer and reflection are the key and love of God. Slowing down enough to hear God speaking to our hearts can be a challenge for some if not every one of us. But as we reflect with the Lord and in looking around at our surroundings, we can begin to feel the presence of God speaking to us. He will show us the path of humility and love of him and of our brothers and sisters.
Our hearts will also reveal to us the light of Christ. This light that will guide us. Christ died for all humanity to enable us to someday live in eternal peace with the Father in Heaven. Every person alive has this great opportunity through the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ to be reunited with God in an existence that calls us to a love which never end. That is God. And that is our calling to love him and to love his creation. If we take the time to pray and the time to think toward God and his will, we will get a glimpse of that reality. It is so important to spread the love of Christ to all people whether they are a direct or an indirect part of our daily lives.
Simply Walking Away from Gossip
As we open our hearts to the Holy Spirit and in walking more closely with God with each situation that occurs, we will develop more courage to simply walk away from gossip. Of course, there will be times that we will be called to defend an innocent person or speak up in a circumstance. However, most of the time with gossip, walking away or just avoiding it is very wise. This is a lesson I have learned over and over again in my life, and it seems to be the best way to avoid it. Many times as we watch a group of people talking at a party or some social setting, we can sometimes overhear words that we know are against someone who is not present that would be categorized as gossip. This is the time to walk away or to simply not engage with people whom you know are “gossipy”. Unfortunately, this behavior happens everywhere including in our own Churches and amongst those we consider followers of the Lord or even clergy.
Although this is disappointing, it is a reality, and for our own spiritual and mental health, my best advice is to walk away or avoid it. Just as in the time of Jesus Christ and before that time, gossip existed and the Lord spoke plainly to the Pharisees about false judgment of others and condemning people. God is the last and ultimate judge, and as Christians we are called to love and sacrifice our lives to bring others into a union with our Lord. Love is our greatest calling, and gossip stands in the way of loving people as we should. As we begin on this journey, we will find that it is not easy to avoid gossip. As our courage develops, our circle of friends may become smaller. Because saying no to gossip is not always the popular choice both in family life and in social life. But, it is what God wants us to do. To stop gossiping.
Opening Our Eyes to Love and the Needs of Others
Once we walk on this way of humility and in making a firm decision to avoid gossip, I believe our eyes will begin to open more to the needs of others. We will begin to see our family, neighbors, friends and all people as special beings created by God. We will see the dignity of the human person. Hurt does exist, and words can be very painful and hard to forget if they are mean-spirited and nasty. It can be difficult to stop ourselves from saying unkind words about people who have hurt us or people we are judging for one reason or another. We must examine our minds and our hearts as to why we have the need to bring someone else “down a notch”.
If we search our hearts, we will discover that our pride is usually in the way. If not our pride, maybe it is some form of unforgiveness for an individual. Once again, the Holy Spirit and walking in humility with God will enable us to have a pure heart and stop gossiping. We must also be aware that snubbing others, ignoring on purpose or excluding is also wrong and is included in the gossip category. God does not like us to behave with an “air of superiority” toward anyone. Once we get a handle on our own mortality and dependency on God, we will be on our way toward avoiding gossip and becoming more loving human beings.
A Simple Prayer to Avoid Gossip
I believe we all have “life lessons” and mottos that are aspects of ourselves that are important to us. This topic is dear to me since God has enlightened me on the pain and suffering people undergo due to the gossip and bullying by others. Once we have experienced this kind of pain ourselves, it is natural to want to reach out to other people who are on the verge of despair and alienation by their peers and/or family members. I’ll end with a prayer for all of us to try and keep an open heart and to do our best to avoid gossip.
Lord Jesus Christ, Thank you for the gift of love. Thank you for the gift of family, friendship and of every human person created. Help us to love others just as you love them. Help us to see the dignity of every person we meet and to avoid gossip, bullying and any superior attitudes we may hold toward people. Help us to walk the road of humility with you every day of our life journey. Help us to forgive anyone from our past that has hurt our hearts and stifled the love we hold inside of us. We love you, and we wish to follow your ways. We call on your Mother Mary and all the angels and saints to assist us to offer a sacrificial love of others in order to carry out your mission for us in this life. And we ask this in the Name of Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.