Over lunch with a group of friends several weeks ago, the topic of conversation turned to a friend who is known for, let’s just say, being blunt. Loud. Saying the thing no one would ever dare to say. Talk, as talk can do, became gossip this particular day. Tidbits of stories about this girl were shared from one person to another who was at our table. I became increasingly uncomfortable until I had to pipe up to say I thought the girl was nice. She is. She is blunt, I give you that, but she is nice, and I think she has a good heart.
One of the girls at the table told me I thought everyone was nice. Well, yes, usually I do, unless they prove me wrong and sometimes even then I know it’s just a temporary state they are in. Take the woman who cut me off in traffic last week and then flipped me the bird for looking at her exasperatedly. I was fuming and mumbled all the way home about blankety-blank crazy people, but then I realized I have been that crazy person when I was late, distracted, or just plain irritated at my kids, life or whatever. Does that mean I’m not nice? Not all the time, but I do try, and I bet that woman usually tries to be nice too.
I think there is an art to saying nothing that has begun to disappear in our society. Many people seem to think there is nothing harmful about talking about other people. I know someone personally whose life was irrevocably altered for the worse by hurtful words. I won’t share the story, as it’s not mine to share, but I can share my own musings in wondering the point of gossiping. Especially, when I believe most people know on some inner level that the person they are talking about could be hurt by the gossip.
Why am I standing on my platform today? Because in my research for my current book, I accidentally stumbled across a site www.belief.net that had a story about gossip on it. This story made me think about a person I knew whose life had been badly damaged by gossip. Shortly after that, this wonderful person called me, and I decided then and there to pass on the folktale that to me perfectly captures the danger of gossip. It’s my cause for the day!
Following is the story:
A nineteenth-century folktale tells about a man who went about town slandering the town's wise man. One day, he went to the wise man's home and asked for forgiveness. The wise man, realizing that this man had not internalized the gravity of his transgressions, told him that he would forgive him on one condition: that he go home, take a feather pillow from his house, cut it up, and scatter the feathers to the wind. After he had done so, he should then return to the wise man's house.
Though puzzled by this strange request, the man was happy to be let off with so easy a penance. He quickly cut up the pillow, scattered the feathers, and returned to the house.
"Am I now forgiven?" he asked.
"Just one more thing," the wise man said. "Go now and gather up all the feathers."
"But that's impossible. The wind has already scattered them."
"Precisely," he answered. "And though you may truly wish to correct the evil you have done, it is as impossible to repair the damage done by your words as it is to recover the feathers. Your words are out there in the marketplace, spreading hate, even as we speak."
Today, I challenge you to refrain from any gossip! If you like this idea you can spread it by pinning this, facebooking the challenge, or twittering it.
Do you know someone who has been hurt by gossip?
Have a great day!
The Marchioness of Mayhem