Let’s admit it. We all enjoy the guilty pleasure of talking about others. We gossip about the latest scandals – who’s having an affair with whom, who got fired – juicy stories of celebrities and people we know. Harmless it may seem, we are actually damaging their reputation when we carelessly publicize people’s mistakes and bad deeds; more so when facts are false. Gossip becomes malicious when it is a lie or when the intention is to ruin people’s reputation.
Pope Francis said, “Gossiping is like terrorism because the person who gossips is like a terrorist who throws a bomb and runs away, destroying: with their tongue they are destroying and not making peace.”
First of all, we should not judge anyone because “the only Judge is the Lord.” Since we do not know the intentions of the heart, we assume ignorance and human weakness instead of malice and bad faith. Even in the worst of circumstances, we try to make excuses for those who commit mistakes or do something disgraceful.
We keep quiet if we cannot speak kindly of someone. Pope Francis advised us to bite our tongues whenever we have the urge to say things, which encourage division.
There are times when we have to warn others of danger: about a corrupt official or an unfaithful fiancé. An obligation of justice and charity may require us to reveal a mistake or fault only to the interested parties, to those who can remedy the situation, but not to the entire community.
With the advent of the internet, gossip can bring even greater damages. Spreading rumors is not limited anymore to the immediate community for a limited period of time. Gossip spreads faster and becomes available forever, 24 hours a day, and for the entire world to know!
To be forgiven from the sin of gossip, we have an obligation to make up for the harm done to the good name of the offended person. Oftentimes, it is difficult to take back what has already circulated.
We will always be tempted to gossip and to enjoy listening to it. We have to be reminded that, “taking pleasure in evil earns condemnation.” (Sirach 19:5) The important thing is to struggle so that we stop the cruel terrorism of gossip.
(Reference: “Pope Francis: Gossiping is like Terrorism” by Rosie Scammell (September 4, 2015 ); “The Faith Explained Today” by Fr. Joe Babendreier; Sirach 19: 5-17; “The Ultimate Guide to Internet Safety” by Victoria Roddel; “The New Word on Gossip” by Nigel Nicholson, Ph.D., professor of organizational behavior at London Business School )