HAVE you ever noticed how much appeal there is to gossip? There are gossip columnists, magazines that are little more than gossip, even gossip television, not to mention ``grapevines'' at work, at school, and at church. It's really amazing how fast news can travel on these human networks. But when what travels on these links is gossip or falsehoods, the result can be hurt feelings, even broken relationships. Some time ago, I learned a lesson about gossiping. There was a lot of gossip about some people where I work. I didn't know what to think -- if the rumors were true or not. I tried to be careful about what I said but inevitably got drawn into the speculation and chatter.
One night a friend telephoned me. She said some rather nasty things about the people involved. I listened and began to believe her statements. She knew some of these people, and I was certain she wouldn't lie. It didn't occur to me that she might be wrong.
Then she went on to speak vehemently against someone I did know and to say things that I knew could not be true. That brought me up short because I suddenly thought: If she can say these things about someone I know is good, how can I be sure that the other people she is criticizing aren't good and innocent, too? After we hung up, I decided that I really needed to pray about the situation at work and the grip that the gossip and speculation had on me.
As I prayed, I thought about Christ Jesus' life. I considered all the different people who had gossiped about him. Here was a man who was truly spiritual in his outlook and his life style. His whole life was devoted to doing good, to serving God. But did people recognize this? Not always.
Mary Baker Eddy1 writes in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures: ``The reputation of Jesus was the very opposite of his character. Why? Because the divine Principle and practice of Jesus were misunderstood.... Mortals believed in God as humanly mighty, rather than as divine, infinite Love.''2
Her use of the term divine Principle, God, in connection with Jesus' reputation reminded me sharply of Jesus' own words about how we view others. In his Sermon on the Mount he says: ``Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged.''3
Thinking about my own behavior honestly, I had to admit that if I were judged as I had been judging these people -- people I didn't even know -- I would fare pretty poorly.
As I prayed further I began to realize a few things. First of all, the Bible tells us that man is spiritual, the child of God. God's child would express only spiritual qualities. Intelligence, love, goodness, truthfulness, lawfulness, beauty, are all spiritual qualities. Gossip, on the other hand, tends to emphasize the negative. Bad news travels fast when it's motivated by malice, envy, self-righteousness. And if you stop to analyze the motives behind gossip, you often find that these destructive character traits are lurking in the background.
Spirituality never contains or encourages malice of any kind. This doesn't mean that we look down on or feel superior to those who gossip. Instead, when we actively desire to live as God's offspring, we are motivated by compassion for the gossiper as well as for the subjects of gossip. To be God's child, then, is to turn away from the kind of outlook that includes gossip and to look for those qualities that are spiritual in ourselves and others.
Even in situations where there is a lot of controversy -- as in the case at work -- we can apply this concept to the whole picture, not just a part of it. What does that mean? Well, if we are truly spiritual, truly children of one God, there can't be any clashing points of view; we are united through our relationship to Him. And the spiritual qualities that we express -- especially love -- help to bring harmony to our everyday lives. We can actually look for such spiritual qualities in the situations as well as people.
One aspect of loving is to ask ourselves some tough questions like ``Am I judging from the standpoint of my opinion -- my likes and dislikes -- which may be based on misapprehension or even misinformation? Or am I striving to see the spiritual qualities always expressed by man?''
If we are praying to see that we really are spiritual and that God governs us all because He is our Father, then we have a head start on resolving difficulties. We are also better able to keep our tongues from wagging over gossip about other people.
In my case, I had an unexpected opportunity to learn specifically that the statements made about these people could not be true. And this made me especially glad that I had spent more time in prayer than in gossip!
1Mrs. Eddy is the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science. 2Science and Health, p. 53. 3Matthew 7:1, 2.
You can find more articles like this one in the Christian Science Sentinel, a weekly magazine. BIBLE VERSE The tongue is a little member, and boasteth great things. Behold, how great a matter a little fire kindleth! James 3:5