Did you make a New Year's Resolution to avoid gossip? Anne DeSantis offers 4 strategies for turning hurtful conversations around.
The Importance of Avoiding Gossip
It is important to avoid gossip both in our home lives and everywhere we go. We are in a new year, and avoiding gossip with God's help is a worthy endeavor of faith. This statement sounds simplified, but the reality is complex. It can be done only through the grace of God and much prayer and perseverance. It is not easy to keep a positive spirit all of the time when speaking with others, especially in a group setting. Gossiping is not only speaking negatively and "discussing" a person who is not present. Let's examine several aspects of gossip.
Elements of Gossip and Bullying
As Catholic Christians, it is sinful for us to disrespect others by negative speech, talking behind someone's back, and displaying overall unkindness to a person not present. If you have ever been in a situation where you were the victim of it, you understand what I mean. Let's take a careful look at other aspects we may not think too much about but are important in regard to avoiding gossip.
- Not Defending the Person Being Talked About. For the soul reason that the person is not there to defend themselves, it is wrong in God's eyes to say nothing when there could be elements of a story that are incorrect. Be sure to speak up for the person being gossiped about. Even you may not know the full story of this person's life and traumas.
- Sarcasm. Nothing is worse than cynicism. God does not like a mean spirit and a cynic. Have a positive attitude in all circumstances. Yes, it is difficult at times, but sarcasm and negativity toward others lives only brings about more unkindness toward the person being discussed. Be a peacemaker. Pray for the person being talked about instead of throwing in a sarcastic or mean comment in a group setting. You are in the middle of sin when you make that offhand comment.
- Belittling. Belittling only shows jealousy from the person discussing someone when in a group or small setting. "Hurt people hurt people." Simply stated, this theory makes a lot of sense. Lift the person up who is being talked about, instead of bashing them. Perhaps the person being talked about has a difficulty in life, or has no support system. Be the one to reach out instead of tearing someone down.
- Ignoring the Person in a Group Setting. If you have ever been gossiped about, the worst thing is feeling ignored by a group or snubbed. I once heard of a friend who had a falling-out with a member of the clergy at her church. Every time she walked into the entrance of the church, she would see prominent members in a group laughing along with the clergy member. Instead of saying "hello" they ignored her. Think again, the next time you're standing in a group setting, not to ignore those who are outside of your group or who are being talked about.
- Using Social Media to Tear Down. Social media is a clever way to gossip and bully, but it's wrong. Stay away from people who use this method to bash others. If you have to "unfriend" or "unfollow" those who find ingenious and sarcastic ways to hurt others, do so. Back away and don't partake in this online behavior. The devil is at work in these kinds of interactions.
Building Bridges of Hope and of Love
These are just some of the ways gossip works. Here are some ways to bridge the gap to help those who are the victims of gossip and bullying.
- Be Brave. Defend a person who is the victim of gossip. Be the one to speak out. Let the group know you will not tolerate this kind of talk. Yes, it will be difficult and you may be alienated by the group, but God calls us to help the victims of abuse.
- Speaks Kind Words When The Opportunity Comes. Speak a word of kindness. Defend the victim's side of his/her story when the time comes. Keep in mind we all have life issues and we all sin. Those who tear others down need to be alerted of the fact that there are two sides to every single story.
- Walk Away. This may be the best advice. Sometimes even within a church setting we may be required to walk away from a "gossipy group." Let the group know that it doesn't matter how Christian we may seem or feel, the mark of a true Christian is defending the marginalized and the outcast. If we are not doing this in our daily lives, we need to go back to Scripture and learn the meaning of Jesus life, death, Resurrection and Ascension. Jesus calls us to be a voice for those who are left alone and marginalized. This was part of his mission on earth. It is the same for us.
- Pray. More than anything, offer daily prayers to Our Lord and Our Lady for the person being gossiped about and for ourselves and the whole group. Pray is the ultimate weapon against the evil of gossip. Don't give up!
Keep the Lord's word close to your heart. Pray always. Avoiding gossip in this new year is a good choice. Make it a lifelong decision. With God's help, bring peace to others and not confusion and discord. God bless you today and always.
One who slanders reveals secrets, but a trustworthy person keeps a confidence. (Proverbs 11:13).
Copyright 2019 Anne DeSantis
Image credit: Pixabay.com (2015), CC0 Public Domain
About the Author
Anne DeSantis, MA Theology, is the author of the book Love and Care for the Marginalized: 40 Meditations for Catholics. She is a wife, mother, podcast and TV host, and the Executive Director for the St. Raymond Nonnatus Foundation at Nonnatus.org. Learn more about Anne at AnneDeSantis.com.