Termites (also called white ants) are horrid little critters. They burrow in the dark, eating your home’s foundations until there is nothing left but a thin veneer which crumbles to touch. Generally by the time you’ve worked this out, it’s too late, the damage has been done.
Slander and gossip can be similar, if you’ve been the subject of the “white ant” you’ll know what I’m talking about. There may be the facade of a sweet nature to your face, but behind your back there is a different story lurking.
The Cambridge online dictionary defines gossip as, conversation or reports about other people’s private lives that might be unkind, disapproving, or not true.
It’s frustrating to be “white anted”, because it’s a powerless position; “someone” said “something” bad, it’s all in the dark, and that’s the devil’s playground. When there is so much anonymity, the issue can’t be addressed. Personally I’d much rather be yelled at to my face, even sworn at, that way I can address the problem. Hey, it could have even been my bad! At least when I’m told to my face, I get to apologise, make amends and build trust again.
Gossip, like termites, breeds quickly when unchecked and spread among others of similar mind, escalating into a hothouse of death and decay. It’s also judgemental, because gossip by definition is only one side of the story.
But why do people gossip? Here are some theories:
- They are afraid to confront, fear keeps them bound. Maybe they had a bad experience with confrontation in the past.
- They feel sorry for the other person gossiping, their compassion over-riding righteousness.
- Envy, wanting what others have, can cause bitterness and resentment. So slandering their character makes them feel better about themselves for a fleeting moment. Ironically, this only makes the gossip look bad, and they are the ones not to be trusted. Remember, the gossip that people are prepared to say to you, they will also be saying similar about you to others!
- They have nothing better to do. They are not busy people, but busy bodies!
- They want to feel part of a group, feel like they belong, or feel important because they know stuff.
So how can I avoid the temptation to gossip?
- Be busy doing productive and worthwhile projects. “No time to gossip, I’m on a mission”!
- If you’re talking about someone, pretend they are in the room listening.
- Frustrated with someone? Tell them to their face, they may not like it initially, but a true friend will see your heart. “Wounds from a sincere friend are better than many kisses from an enemy.”
- Don’t engage with people who smear other’s reputation, “Bad company corrupts good character”
Just as termites can destroy the physical foundation of a home, gossip can also destroy the relationships within a community. It’s insidious nature, like termites, goes undetected until lives are ruined and destroyed. Let’s help by keeping each other accountable, and uphold a standard that doesn’t allow room for gossip to breed, by gently reminding each other for wholesome words to be spoken.