Saturday, November 8, 2014

A Sin We Seldom Talk About

      "Gossip needn't be false to be evil - there's a lot of truth that shouldn't be passed around."

In our catalog of sins, gossip is seldom one we rank as especially serious. Everybody does it.

Yet it's hard to think of anything that can do more harm to what we prize most--our good reputations. Nor does engaging in it get close to respecting this version of the Golden Rule, "Speak of others only as you would have them speak of you."

Whenever we're about to pass on some unflattering information about another, we should consider the words of the late Jewish poet and theologian Jonathan Laveter, “Never tell evil of a man if you do not know it for a certainty, and if you do know it for a certainty, then ask yourself, ‘Why should I tell it at all?'”

If anything we should practice spreading positive "rumors" about others' good deeds instead of talking about their faults.  

Rabbi Joseph Teluskin, in his book Words that Hurt, Words that Heal, suggests that the most likely reason we gossip is to "raise our status through lowering the status of others", which he says is why we are less likely to speak ill of those we perceive as being of lower rank than ourselves.

Another motivation, he believes, is to be perceived as being "in the know". Here he quotes Dr. Samuel Johnson of two centuries ago as saying, "The vanity of being trusted with a secret is generally the chief motive for disclosing it."

Of course I have no problem keeping secrets myself. The problem lies with all the other folks I tell them to ;-).

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