“Gossip is black magic at its very worst because it is pure poison.” Don Miguel Ruiz, The Four Agreements
Years ago I read an interview with actress Susan Sarandon in which she told a story about her daughter’s 11th birthday slumber party. The girls were full of gossip so Ms. Sarandon suggested the ground rule that they not talk about anyone who wasn’t there.
The astonished reply from one of the little girls was, “Then what are we supposed to talk about?”
What is gossip?
According to Miriam-Webster.com, gossip is defined as “a rumor or report of an intimate nature.” A person who gossips is one who “habitually reveals personal or sensational facts about others.”
I find it an oddity of human nature that so many people love to gossip and put down others. Perhaps it gives them a feeling of superiority to be establishing that someone else is inferior to them.
Or maybe they’re establishing they’re part of an in-crowd by creating an out-crowd.
I believe we all know the fallacy of the childhood rhyme, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me.” Gossip and taunts are cruel and unkind and add no value whatsoever to the planet we all share.
It seems that many children learn to bond with one another by either picking on or gossiping about another person or group. Hence the problem with bullying in schools today.
Or perhaps we just have such poor conversation skills and role models we don’t know what else to talk about! Aside from parents and teachers, children learn behavior from television and movies. And most TV shows and movies seem to be full of gossip and bad behavior. No wonder it’s a national problem!
A friend of mine came up with a wonderful reply to use when people asked her about someone else’s business: “It’s their story to tell.” That means resisting the urge to be a reporter. It’s also a version of, “the buck stops here.” Take responsibility for stopping gossip in its tracks. You and the planet will be better for it.
Why gossip and negative language is bad for us
Perhaps this will be some motivation for you:
Research has shown that the subconscious mind only hears the words, not who the words are about. So if you speak negatively about someone else, your subconscious receives the message as being about you. So of course you’re going to feel bad!
Native Americans understood this — Bear Heart taught that if you point a finger of scorn at another, you are actually pointing three fingers back at yourself!
A University of Wisconsin study found that low-energy [negative] thoughts and words lower the immune system and make people more illness-prone.
Japanese scientist Dr. Masaru Emoto has written best-selling books on his research with water crystals. He has established that molecules of water are affected by our thoughts, words and feelings. He photographed frozen water in petri dishes which had different words and phrases taped to them.
Crystals formed in the dishes with positive words and phrases on them were like beautiful snowflakes. Crystals formed with negative words on the dish were ugly and deformed. In fact, one oncologist who saw the photographs said they looked like cancer cells.
Given that the average adult body has a water content of around 70%, this has huge implications. If we speak or listen to negative words, it can negatively affect the water in our bodies and, therefore, our health.
The healing power of positive words
The Babemba Tribe of South Africa has a unique way of dealing with “criminals.” When a member of the tribe has committed an offense, they are taken to the village square and surrounded by a circle of every member of the tribe.
One by one the tribal members, including the children, recite to the offending person every good deed they have ever seen him perform, every kind word said, every positive quality. This goes on until everyone in the tribe has had their say, even if it takes days. Then they have a celebration to welcome the member back into the tribe.
The positive reminders and words are considered to have healed the “criminal.” There is reportedly almost no crime in their society.
Think before you speak
It is a traditional shamanic teaching that, before you speak, you should ask yourself three questions:
Is it true?
Is it kind?
Is it necessary?
If you can’t answer “yes” to all three questions, then don’t say it.
That might force you into a lot of silence, but silence is a very good thing!
If you absolutely, positively can’t hold back on sharing gossip, write it down in a letter you mail only to yourself. That may help get it out of your system.
“There are two good rules which ought to be written on every heart; never to believe anything bad about anybody unless you positively know it to be true; and never to tell that unless you feel that it is absolutely necessary, and that God is listening while you tell it.” - Henry Van Dyke
Here’s my challenge: go 30 days without saying one unkind or negative thing about or to anyone. Just try it one day at a time and I think you’ll be amazed at how much lighter and happier you feel.
To get you started, my next post will give you some conversation topics as alternatives to gossip.
Let me know how it goes. What alternative conversations did you come up with? And how did it make you feel?