- Light informal conversation for social occasions
- A report (often malicious) about the behaviour of other people
- A person given to gossiping and divulging personal information about others
- Wag one’s tongue; speak about others and reveal secrets or intimacies
“Shhh, Don’t tell anyone, but did you know john from accounts is sleeping with sally from marketing?”
“Yes it’s true, betty from telesales, was told by simon from the factory, because he was in a pub the other night and saw them together”
“Yes, It’s true! Did you know he’s married?”
“Yes, and he’s got children, I mean, you never know what’s going on, do you? Just think how his poor wife must feel?”
“Yes, she’d be heartbroken.”
It doesn’t matter that actually john and sally arranged to meet after work because they both play badminton! As far as the office gossips are concerned, if someone says it’s true, it must be.
Wherever you go in life, there is someone gossiping about someone else. From the offices of the large corporations I used to work in, to the small spiritual community where I am volunteering at the moment – gossip is rife.
Not content with talking about our friends, family and colleagues, we now have magazines and television programmes dedicated solely to gossiping about celebrities lives. People we have never met, nor will probably ever meet. This is how far we have come in our lives, the end result of millions of years of evolution.
Four billion years after the earth was created, and here we are, sitting in front of the tv, eating junk food, and looking at pictures of people who have become well known for one reason or another (rich, model, TV star, actor), and who has been photographed or filmed, (a) coming out of a nightclub drunk, (b) with someone other than their partner, (c) with a prostitute (d) snorting cocaine or some other drug or (e) involved in some other scandal (disgraceful gossip about the private lives of other people).
One question I want to ask you all, is whether gossip can ever be helpful? Can gossip ever be construed as well meaning, or positive? Before you answer, I would like you to think about it for a moment. Does talking about people’s lives make your life any better and does it make their lives better? Of course not!
But don’t we feel really sneaky talking about people behind their backs? They can’t hear us whispering our poisonous words about them, and when we see them or talk to them, we never mention we were gossiping about them, do we? Then it wouldn’t be gossip. Instead we are all smiles. We pretend they are our best friend and yet we stab them in the back with malicious rumours or discussion of their private lives.
How many of us have been told something in confidence by someone and promised never to divulge it, yet as soon as we get the opportunity say “I shouldn’t tell you this, I promised not to tell anyone, but did you know that…” I can’t believe I have been guilty of that on so many occasions. I listen to someone’s innermost secrets, and then casually share them with friends down the pub.
In response to the question, of whether gossip can ever be positive, I would have to say that gossip is always malicious. It always relates to someone else’s bad points (in our opinion), or things they have done they don’t want other people to know about.
I often wonder how these celebrities feel when they see themselves in the paper or the trashy magazines, doing something they aren’t proud of or want to keep secret. They must be distraught. Even though they court public attention, to see a picture of yourself stumbling out of a nightclub at 6.00 am must be quite unpleasant. Remember, for all their faults, celebrities are human too, even if we don’t treat them as such. For us, they are people who have made a lot of money by being in the public eye so we have an inherent right to spy on them!
At heart, we are just voyeurs. Not in a sexual way (although that occurs too), but in a “your life is more interesting than mine way.” Why do you think we have become so addicted to reality tv programmes where we “spy” on peoples lives for extended periods of time?
We love them, we can’t get enough of them, so the tv companies make more and more. They have finally found what the public likes best – voyeuristic programmes with real people, not actors, so that every day at work, or at home, or in the pub, we can say:
“Did you see what happened last night! I can’t believe she did that!”
“Yes I know, you’d think she’d have more sense.”
Day in, day out, we watch people, listen to them and discuss them; good points and bad points.
Let me ask you something. Don’t you think gossip is a real waste of energy, do you not think we could spend our time discussing more important issues in the world?
“Why?” says you. “That’s no fun, gossip is much more fun.” But fun is not what gossip is at all, fun is sharing and laughing together, not secreting yourself in a corner with a confidant, and sharing half truths and rumours (which are always negative or used in a negative way).
For those of you who say that gossip can be used positively, please try to think of any time when you have gossiped about someone in a positive way.
“You know john?”
“Did you know he’s going to be promoted to office manager?”
“John? You can’t be serious, he’s useless”
“I know, I don’t know what they were thinking…”
“Oh, hi john, just heard about your promotion, congratulations, you deserve it!”
I cannot understand it why are we so two-faced (marked by deliberate deceptiveness especially by pretending one set of feelings and acting under the influence of another) Why can’t we say what we are thinking? Because as humans we want people to think we like them – to avoid conflict. But underneath the jokes and the smiles is the jealous and malicious person, full of hate, rage and envy. That is the person who gossips.
We just can’t stop talking about each other
It starts off all innocently doesn’t it? A few back-handed words about a friend or a colleague who has done something to offend you, or maybe someone you don’t particularly like, (if you liked them, why would you talk about them behind their back?) but slowly it grows inside, like a disease, and you find that your whole conversation becomes about other people; what you heard and what you saw. It doesn’t even have to be out loud.
We talk to ourselves all the time about others. “Look at her, who does she think she is? She’s nobody special.” “I can’t believe he got promoted, above me, he’s useless, I’m so much better than him.” The incessant chattering in the brain, always judging ourselves, and always judging others. So where does it all end, this malicious gossip?
If you aren’t aware of it, military regimes, and dictatorships around the world use gossip to keep tabs on dissenters and people plotting against them. Throughout countries with totalitarian (characterized by a government in which the political authority exercises absolute and centralized control) governments, people were encouraged to spy on their neighbours, to tell the secret police about their activities. Of course they found no shortage of volunteers did they?
Thanks to the information provided, thousands of people were imprisoned and/or executed as a result of the information passed to the authorities. It still goes on now. Right now there are people all over the world knocking on the doors of the authorities to give information about other peoples activities. In the light of recent events in the world some of you may believe that to be a good thing.
Western governments are putting up posters everywhere, taking out adverts, in papers and on tv. “If you see anything suspicious, contact us now.” The governments are so concerned with terrorism that they now want us to spy on our neighbours as well. Do you not think this is reminiscent of the old cold war era? “No” says you, “that era was about control and oppression, our government is fighting for freedom. We need to stop the terrorists so if we have to spy on our neighbours to stop them blowing us up, so be it. I’m glad to give any assistance to the government.” But please, you must remember this, it is still gossip. It is still talking about someone else.
“Yes, but I saw him building a bomb.”
This is easy. If you have facts that will help less people being killed, then you should try to do something about it. Most police operations have information given by grasses (someone acting as an informer or decoy for the police), and a grass is just a different name for a gossip.
The police and the security services rely on peoples inherent nature to gossip and talk about others in order to get information to stop dangerous events (such as explosions) from actually taking place or to bring about the end of paedophile rings etc.
Information is different from gossip only in one way. It is provided with the express intention of helping others on the planet, otherwise it is just gossip and is malicious.
So do you think we will ever be able to transcend this poisonous trait so inherent in human life? It has been around for a long time and shows no signs of abating. Always negative, never positive. Were we born like it? Doubtful. It is almost certainly a learned behaviour from society, from listening to our parents, our teachers and our peers, and starts early on in life, probably in the playground.
So how do we go beyond this, will we evolve enough so we no longer gossip? Who knows, but all I know is that it is a poisonous arrow in the side of the human race, and causes nothing but suffering. It is malicious and vindictive and bears no relation to our compassionate nature. This is a bolt-on attribute and not a very nice one at that.
The only way forward is to make a big shift, right now; where we make a promise to each other to stop gossiping about other people, and try to develop love for each other.
So what if people do things you don’t like. Who cares if john is sleeping with someone and he’s married. So what if someone has nineteen illegitimate children. None of this matters. It is unimportant, has no effect on our lives, and helps no one by gossiping about it. So why do it?
Go beyond it now. Vow with me to stop gossiping and help the world be a more understanding and peaceful place. Do it now. I have.
You will probably find like most people, that this big shift doesn’t work quite as quickly as you would like. That’s where awareness comes in.
With awareness, you are not forcing yourself to stop doing something, you are just noticing, quietly, the internal voice, noticing quietly what you say, and noticing quietly what you do. You are not trying to stop anything, merely paying attention to yourself. It is through this noticing, and your commitment to yourself, that you will go beyond gossip. Be aware in the moment. Right now.