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Harm Of Gossip
Gossip is such a terrible thing, and yet so prevalent, even in metaphysical circles. It causes separation, ostracizing particular people from social circles. It causes hatred and anger. It causes cliques and “we-hate so-and-so-clubs.” It causes divisions among people who are supposedly teaching that we are all One. If we are all one, then no one should ever slander another, for then we are slandering our own self when we say something bad about someone else. The question I always ask is: “How are we ever going to stop world wars if not even the metaphysical people can get along?” It makes me wonder when I see so many rifts and divisions among those in a metaphysical community. Gossip is one of the key factors in these divisions among metaphysical people.
Gossip, more accurately called slander, is a very damaging action that should never happen in metaphysical circles. Many would say that they never gossip. However, I challenge anyone who says this to record every conversation on a tape recorder for an entire month and see if there is at least one point of gossip in there somewhere. We have all been guilty of gossip at some point or another, so we might as well forgive ourselves and others for it now. Even worse, it is highly likely that we will gossip again at some point in our lives before we notice that we are doing it again. That little muscle, the tongue, is rather wily and takes vigilance to control. The trouble is that we have most likely blurted it out already before we realize that we have just committed the sin of gossip.
We have all been on the receiving end of slander, and everyone knows it doesn’t feel good. I cannot even count the number of counseling sessions I have had with someone who feels harmed by what someone else has said behind his or her back. I have found myself doing a lot of work on removing the harm done by slander, not only for others, but also for myself. I have been the target of many projections that have no substance in reality, as everyone has, and I always wonder how someone came up with such a far out story that never even happened.
The first thing to do about that little muscle is to stop moving it and don’t let anyone else move it in your presence! When in doubt, silence is always the best route. I believe that people who gossip do not realize that they are gossiping at all. Gossipers rarely label themselves as such. So how can we stop this hurtful action if it is so unconsciously done?
The best solution is to not have the thoughts that are behind gossip in the first place. Policing the consciousness will be more effective than policing the tongue. A lot of time, money, effort, and healing have been done around the energy of gossip on the receiving end. Now let us address the healing that must happen on the giving end of gossip. If the root cause is healed, then the effect is not manifest anymore. Let us stop the effect at its cause.
So what is the cause of gossip? Usually, when someone feels the need to say something bad about someone else, it comes from a place of feeling hurt, having judgment about the other person, jealousy and insecurity, the premise of “processing,” warn somebody about so-and-so, and it is even done secondhand by someone who wants to join in the “fun” of slander against another who he or she has never even met. Let’s look at each of these causes individually and find out where in the consciousness an adjustment can be made.
When friendships end badly, it is very common for both parties to gossip about each other, trying to get other parties “on their side.” This proves that gossip is hugely coming from hurt feelings. It is the hurt feelings that must be addressed in order to stop gossip at its root. This does not mean that the friendship must be re-ignited, for it is quite possible that the friendship was unhealthy, was not useful anymore, and was outgrown by one or both parties. However, it is even more unhealthy to harbor unresolved hurt feelings. Forgiveness must be embraced, but even this is a kindergarten level of looking at things.
Yes, perhaps a betrayal has happened, certain boundaries have been crossed that shouldn’t have been crossed, or the trust has been broken past the point of repair. This does not mean, however, that hurt feelings must remain and revenge through gossip must happen. A master realizes that the human condition is what it is and everyone has their own version of it, dysfunctions and all. The master realizes this and does not blame another for his or her faulty human condition. True resolution of hurt feelings is the acceptance of the human condition and all of its variations in others. It also includes allowingness of others to make their mistakes without laying on more harm. A true master blames no one for their faults, their mistakes, or their shortcomings, and therefore forgiveness is not even necessary. No blame, just acceptance and allowingness.
Judgment is another root cause of gossip. Everyone has judgments, even those who would consider themselves spiritually evolved. There is a fine line between judgment and discernment. The difference between them is that judgment has emotional overtones while discernment does not. Judgment tends to gossip while discernment simply chooses not to associate with this or that energy because it is not healthy to be around. So we must examine our judgments about other people, especially if we talk about them with others. The adjustment in consciousness that needs to take place is to take a position of allowingness where others can have faults without pointing them out to outside parties.
Insecurity and jealousy is another cause of gossip. This is more common than most people would like to admit. It comes from a desire to find fault with a person who otherwise exhibits extraordinary characteristics. If their faults can be found, then this person seems less admirable, strong, or talented. Insecurity and jealousy often come from dissolved partnerships where one party seems to be doing better than the other. This perceived success of the other, of course, may or may not be true and might just be a projection. If it is not, then the one who feels jealous better get going on finding their own extraordinary characteristics instead of being resentful of others who have found theirs. The premise of “processing” is a very thinly disguised action of gossip. This is a very common window that is used by metaphysical people to gossip, for everyone wants to be a helping friend. This is a trap that I have fallen into as a listener more than I would like to admit, for I always want to help a friend resolve hurt feelings.
Sometimes, it truly is necessary to process something with another person, especially if resolutions have not been able to be reached on one’s own. Trying to reach conclusions on one’s own is the first thing to be attempted. Only if this is unsuccessful should someone be consulted, preferably a counselor. However, sometimes it is necessary to talk to someone who knows the other person, but this should be someone who loves the other person just as much as they love you. Then they are acting as a mediator rather than someone who will listen to gossip.
Warning others about someone is another thinly disguised version of gossip. There is a fine line between a true warning and a gossip based warning. Yes, it might be quite appropriate to let someone know about a predatory type person who is pretending to be metaphysical, or a reader or counselor who has given out some very bad advice, or some other unsavory behavior that has shown itself to be a harmful pattern that remains unchanged. However, this should only be volunteered if the person is on a path to meet that harmful person or group. If at all possible, it is best to just say that there is a questionable reputation rather than giving particulars. If there is no reason for speaking about it, it should remain unaddressed. More likely than not, however, gossipers use the pretense of warning about someone with a malicious tone in the voice, not a caring tone, reluctant to say it in the first place.
Where does this come from in the consciousness? I would say that revenge and venting is most likely the motive for almost all gossip. The adjustment that should take place in the consciousness is that one must examine the motive for gossip. Is there a “got you back” energy behind it? Is there a feeling of being loyal to a group that dislikes this person? The motive must be examined. As I have said, most gossip happens because there are unresolved hurt feelings on the sides of one or both parties who ended a friendship or partnership, or were cast out of a group and the group has decided to dislike this person.
It is not uncommon for people, who have never met someone, to gossip about people because they have heard something bad from someone they already know. This comes from wanting to be part of the group, belonging to the herd. Everyone wants to belong, and if he or she “hates-so-and-so” it could mean instant friendship with the gossiper, maybe entrance and acceptance in a group. “If you hate so-and-so then you must be alright. You’re in our club.” This, of course, is the most ridiculous cause of all for gossip, and should be easy to spot in the consciousness. One must ask oneself if this is really the best group to be in.
But how does one not “take in” this opinion of someone he or she has never met, or knows a little, as it is being so colorfully relayed? This brings us to the question of whether or not we should indulge the gossipers or not. Why do we let people say something bad about someone else in our presence? It may be difficult to cut someone off who is gossiping, but this is what must happen, even if it means losing the friendship. I learned this the hard way. I remember when a friend called me almost every other day for about two years. Our conversations were about many things. However, some kind of gossip about someone was always worked into it, and she would qualify it by saying, “I need to process this.” I realized later that she was not trying to process anything at all. She just wanted to gossip and get revenge on the person by trying to sway my perceptions of the other. She got a certain feeling of pleasure from it, which we will discuss in a moment, for there is a certain pleasure principle that accompanies gossip in both the gossiper and the listener.
I usually listened quietly, wanting to help her, saying hmmm, trying to find a place to interject and ask if there was anything within herself that might be reflected there. She deflected this deftly almost every time. I couldn’t call her on it because I knew if I did our friendship would end abruptly. I feared being the subject of her gossiping should I ever lose favor with her. I was afraid of what would happen if the friendship ended. I was trying to be gentle, easing into it, but as it all turned out, the friendship ended abruptly anyway. I couldn’t handle being in the dis-empowered position anymore anyway, unable to say what I really wanted to say because I feared the friendship would end and I would be harmed. Once the friendship had started, I couldn’t end it without terrible results. There were some positive aspects to the friendship that I did want to keep, but the cons finally outweighed the pros. I had to let this one go. She had not shown enough spiritual growth for me to continue with this friendship, and that was my goal by associating with her.
Most of what she said about others were lies. She herself didn’t even know she was lying because it was so unconscious. She truly believed that she had integrity and had never told a lie in her life. Most chronic liars don’t know that they are lying because they believe their projections so completely that it becomes truth to them. They even see a whole scene that never took place play out in front of their eyes as if it really happened. They forget after a while that it never happened and remember it as if it was an actual event. This is the most dangerous and hurtful kind of gossiper, and a convincing one as well. So let’s talk about the pleasure principle that is involved with gossip. How is it possible that both the gossiper, and the one listening, derive pleasure about what is being said about another? First, let’s look at the gossiper. Again, it usually comes from hurt feelings or judgment. What better way to get revenge than to smear someone’s name in the dirt, making new friendships with the listeners impossible for the one who has been sullied? And better yet, what better revenge is there than to destroy friendships that are already in existence with the one being sullied? This is the most gratifying revenge of all.
Besides venting, I believe that revenge is the driving force behind gossip, although most people are not conscious of wanting revenge. It is not socially acceptable to get revenge directly by harming someone who is perceived as faulty or has hurt the feelings of the gossiper. This indirect way is more socially acceptable than say, slashing tires or throwing a rock through someone’s window. Gossip, however, is acceptable, and doesn’t carry consequences that might land the one with the hurt feelings in jail. The pleasure is derived from having gotten revenge. Even though the one who was being gossiped about doesn’t know it, the gossiper has the secret knowledge that he or she has turned someone else against the gossipee, has exposed the faults of the gossipee (real or not real, doesn’t matter) to an outsider, and that is good enough for most people harboring hurt feelings. Another satisfaction that comes with gossiping is commiserating with others who are easily swayed the same way.
So why did I indulge the gossiper? What is the pleasure principle for the listener? I had to ask myself this, and meditated on it for quite a while. I hadn’t had such a gossiping friend before, so this was new territory for me. It took many sessions to get to the bottom of it. When I looked at it honestly, there was more to it than just wanting to help her overcome these projections she was putting on other people. Originally I thought I was being altruistic and helpful, wanting to help her overcome her judgments of other people, but when I looked deeper, there was more than that. There was a part of me that was curious about the dirt on everyone, even though I didn’t let it change my perception of these people. Most people’s perceptions of others are effected, even if they have never met the person. However, I always try to give everyone the benefit of the doubt, being aware that there are two sides to every story. I was also aware that the spiritual development of my friend was still needing work. I wasn’t taking her word for it that so-and-so was “bad” for that just isn’t my belief system. I believe everyone is Godself in the flesh, even with their faults. It was no small matter to teach myself this habit of thinking and took many years to develop. It takes a lifetime to perfect, and we are all still working on that, I suppose.
So, then, why did I indulge the gossiper, knowing that it was all her illusion, hoping to point that out to her? I believe it is morbidity. It is the same thing in all of us that makes us crane our necks to see what happened in a terrible car accident as we drive by. This morbidity is what makes us listen to the gossipers. We want to “see” the ugliness, even if it is shocking, even if it doesn’t involve us, even if we don’t believe it.
So let us examine what is really behind the urge to gossip, even if we believe that we are not gossipers. Let us witness the unnecessary damage that gossip does. Next time someone gossips in our presence, let us stop the gossiper in his or her tracks, even if it means becoming the brunt of the gossip or ending a friendship. Let us have the wisdom to know when it is truly a friend needing to sort things out or if it is gossip. Let us stop gossip where it begins. Let us heal the hurt feelings and judgments that make gossip a reality. Let us tolerate the faults we see in others, even if we don’t want to hang out with those people. Let us live and let live, allowing each other to make the mistakes we need to make in order to grow, allowing each other to have the faults that we have agreed to have in this lifetime. Let us not take revenge on the human condition we see in others. Let us allow Godself to explore the faulty human condition in every possible way without harm. Let us realize that it is truly Oneself having many lifetimes, many versions of self, exploring all the faults and strengths that are possible in the human condition. Let us allow even the lowliest among us to be our teacher, our Buddha. What does that person who irks you so much teach you about yourself? This is the path of the master.
Christine Breese is the founder of the University of Metaphysical Sciences, www.umsonline.org. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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