Monday, August 15, 2016

Gossip an Obstacle to Sanctity

Speaking behind a person's back is an expression easily understood. Korean has a number of these phrases--some considered slang. 

On the opinion page of the Peace Weekly, a columnist gives us his understanding of backbiting, gossip. Usually saying unsavory things about others. As people of faith, it is  confessional matter, an enemy of the virtuous life.

The columnist quotes the words of Pope Francis at a morning Mass:  "If you are capable of not speaking badly of someone, you are on the path to becoming a saint," These words startled the columnist and considers it a ban on gossiping. In his own life, few are the days that he has not participated in gossiping and feels embarrassed.

He feels this kind of talk arises from a feeling of inferiority or jealousy. More readily seen with the weak rather than the strong. There is a strange kind of pleasure that comes when we attempt to take down another, who appears better than oneself; it makes us feel superior. It's an attempt to hide our  frustration and shame. When truth and justice are at stake we should honestly be open and say what we think when our logic and moral position is not clear we lean towards gossiping. A sign of failure, those who don't shrink before authority will not resort to gossip.

Gossip is a sign of helplessness. We sacrifice those at a distance to gain a feeling of intimacy with those close to us.  A  pleading for comfort and a pathetic way to try to cover over the hurt to our spirit. Often, he says, it is a way of allaying our problems  by blaming others for our own involvement.

Gossip is our enemy, it hurts us and  others in the community; it's like a fog that spreads and destroys  harmony and peace. Rare is the positive talk in gossip. Pope Francis returns often to the topic of gossip in his talks: "Gossiping is like terrorism...who throws a bomb and runs away, destroying: with their tongue and not making peace...Every day I get the urge to say something that sows discord and division... Bite your tongue!"

He concludes the column with the experience of many of the politicians using blunt and unreasonable language and finding fault. However, one day he was faced with the fact that this blunt language was not gossip, but saying what they felt in their heart.  He felt he was not in the right to criticize them. Gossip and blunt talk both lack virtue but if we are to choose--gossip is worse.

In the English Parliament, they address each other by the title 'Honourable Member'  he would like us to address each other with this same attitude and if we tend to hesitate it may mean the words we utter may not be as honest as we believe. He wants us to dream of being saints, which will allow us to retire at night with a clean conscience.

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