Years ago, the “Gladys Kravitz” of our neighborhood told me that one of our local handymen was a pedophile. No one else in the neighborhood ever confirmed that, and this woman told me many other things about neighbors that proved to be untrue. Still, every time I saw that man I grabbed my kids and pulled them inside. She had tainted my opinion of him forever, and he was most likely innocent.
Gossip spreads like virus, and causes irreparable damage. You may one day have a change of heart and forgive the person you are maligning. But it’s too late. Opinions have been formed based on your words.
I don’t necessarily think it’s a bad thing to talk - we’re all interested in each other’s lives. What’s important is intent. Are you talking about a friend to knock them down a peg? Are you vilifying them to make yourself look like the good guy? Are you trying to lower others’ opinions of them?
Or are you coming from a place of love?
This reminds me of an old Jewish proverb:
A man went about his community telling malicious lies about the town Rabbi. Later, he began to feel remorse. He went to the rabbi and begged his forgiveness, saying he would do anything to make amends. The rabbi told him, "Take a feather pillow, cut it open, and scatter the feathers to the winds." The man did it gladly. When he returned, the rabbi said, "Now, go and gather the feathers. Because you can no more recollect the damage your words have done than you can recollect the feathers."
So keep this in mind. If you’re going to be a gossip girl, once you’ve fired off your missives, you’ll never be able to put those bullets back in the gun. Or the feathers in the pillow.
Whoopi Goldberg had a great line in The Color Purple:
“Everything you done to me, you already done to yourself.”
No truer words were ever spoken. The damage you do to others in spreading malicious gossip will always be with you, and will ultimately hurt you in the end.
The moral of the story?
Words have power. Wield them wisely.