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Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Gossip, A Destructive Habit

“Using the analogy of the human mind as a computer, gossip can be compared to a computer virus. A computer virus is a piece of computer language written in the same language all the other codes are written in, but with a harmful intent.”
–Don Miguel Ruiz, The Four Agreements
Proverbs 11:13 A gossip betrays a confidence, but a trustworthy man keeps a secret.
Proverbs 16:28 a perverse man stirs up dissension, and a gossip separates close friends.
All of us have, at some point been the victims of hurtful gossip and all of us have been the issuer of gossip or the entertainer of gossip. I am writing this because I have been a victim of gossip for over two years, since opening my yoga studio and it has hurt me deeply, making me feel helpless and tired. As a general rule I never say anything I wouldn't say to someone myself and if I hear something, I go to the source and ask questions (though, to my amazement, I have found that some people would rather hold on to negativity and the image they have created of you rather than get to the "truth" through an honest discussion or simply by looking at a person’s overall character to see if things add up). No matter how "big" or "small" the gossip may seem, chances are it will becomes much larger than you could have ever imagined as your words take on a life of their own.

“Good” Gossip/Sharing
In general we rarely sit around and talk about how great someone is or how wonderful it is they have such a lovely life, but we should do more of this. I admire people who can find something positive to say about everyone, even when that person has hurt him or her in some way. I believe these people have more awareness and allow for the human condition of making mistakes and/or the understanding that our perception of a situation may be skewed. We can express opinions without being judgmental. We can look at both sides of a situation and find a common ground. This keeps Unity in place. This is Yoga.

“Bad” Gossip/Harmful Intent
There is a line between sharing to get clarification and vengeful gossip. The first thing you should do if you have a problem with someone is go to them directly before you spread harmful words that may not be the truth, but rather a misunderstanding. Try and assume that the person you are about to “trash” may not even realize what they have done, may be struggling with some sort of crisis which causes them to act out of character, and/or consider your own view might be clouded due to your own life experience at any given moment. Going forth and blindly insulting someone’s character or actions or going along with someone who is doing this is destructive and hurtful. This path destroys friendships, families, communities, and personal character. This is not Yoga.

Issuer's Intent “Tear someone down”
Jealousy, and/or Revenge (To feel superior by bringing someone else down)
For Control, Power, and/or Fear (Those who do not want to see anyone else succeed so they are always on top)
To feel a part of a group (If they have something to say, it will make them feel more valuable)
Boredom (If their life is not interesting, they may gravitate towards situations that are.)

Entertainers Role “Taking Sides”
All of the above applies to this, but I would say the entertainer is even more responsible for the hurtful gossip because he/she gives life to the gossip and many times the person is “taking sides” without the victim of the gossip ever having done anything to them. This is a situation that tears friendships and communities apart. In my experience, finding out that an Issuer has gone to my friends to spread ill intention about me, then my friends not tell me and also not defend my character has resulted in a loss of trust between some close friends and myself. I have also witnessed a change in treatment from one person and then all of a sudden anyone associated with that person also starts treating me differently. Again, I always ask questions when these things start to happen, but I do not always get an answer.
Have you ever found yourself saying,”OMG, I KNOW, you are sooo right about that, I never thought about that? He or she IS just as you say! If so, you are being swayed and giving life to something that may not even be true. If we want peace, then we must ask questions and form our own opinions, not because we want someone else to like us, but because it is the “right” thing to do. In fact, I have defended a couple of people who have trashed me because I do not believe in adding fuel to the fire and do know, deep down, they are hurting just like I am.

Victim Feels
Alone, devastated, helpless, embarrassed, used, betrayed, and the list goes on. Never underestimate the power gossip causes, no matter how “strong” or “put together” the person you are gossiping about appears. Chances are, the person you are gossiping about is just as sensitive as you are and maybe even more so.

How to Stop Gossiping
Go to the source, ask questions and clear the air (Integrity)
Look at the overall character of the person. (Awareness)
Tell an issuer to “Go to the person they are taking about” (Teach them it is ok to communicate openly) without taking sides.
Form your own opinions about people, but always act from a place of compassion.
Ask yourself if what you are about to say going to improve on the silence.
Stop buying Gossip centered Magazines or watching Gossipy TV shows. (admit it, there is a sense of pleasure you get knowing the rich and famous get knocked down a few rungs)
Choose a couple of close friends you can confide in who you know will call you on your words if they become gossipy or you cross the line. (I have made this pact with a couple of close friends)
If something happens between yourself and someone else, do an inventory of your entire relationship with the person. How have they helped you in the past? How do they do for others? A favorite quote of mine is, ”Blessed are those who give without remembering and receive without forgetting.” This quote has shown me that even those who have gossiped about me have done good things for me and therefore, I cannot judge them on this one thing, no matter how harmful it has been to me.

If you do these things you cannot hide what is truly going on inside of yourself and it is an opportunity for growth. We should want others to grow and live in peace, just as we want to grow and live in peace. Mother Teresa said, ”If we have no peace in the world, it is because we have forgotten we belong to each other”.


Dr. Jay SW said...

When I was younger I knew a lot of people who gossiped about their friends lot...I often enjoyed what they had to say, until I realized that the were doubtless talking about me the same way when my back was turned...

angelsong333 said...

I enjoyed reading this and am thankful that through your own pain, you were able to share the experience with others.

I've been experiencing the same thing in my neighborhood for 2 years now. It has affected my whole family even my two small children. My oldest child had to have major surgery and subsequently two more major surgeries and whatever this one neighbor said, turned everyone against us. A year prior to this, another neighbor's child had major surgery and this particular neighbor tried to say negative things about the mother and I stopped it immediately. I guess that when it was my turn to be talked about, I didn't have an advocate to stop the destructive behavior and it soon mushroomed.

At times, I have been at breaking point...just hanging on by a thin thread. Has been one of the most difficult things I've ever gone through but now at least, my son is better and recovered and I am better able to handle it although the gossip continues to this day.

Spiritually speaking, I guess my pain from this is an indication that I still have work to do in my own healing otherwise I would not have be hurt so badly by it. Working through that.

Anonymous said...

I am a native woman who has felt truely blessed over the past couple of years. Blessed with such a wonderful community of friends to pray with. I envisioned this community becomming Aunties and Uncles to children I might have becuase I live away from my own community in another provence..
Recently I have been feeling a weirdness that I couldn't explain..a distance. I assumed it was becuase things are tough for lots of people right now. In fact.. a "good friend" had started a rumour that I was flirting with her husband...(this thought is disturnbing and discusting) the other older women whom I saw as Aunties and GRandmother figures joined in with agreeances or just listening and nodding. I found out 2 days ago that this has been going around for about a year now. Worse the person that started it and kept it going was a "close friend who I see weekely'
IT was hard not to let hate take over my heart. I opted for numbness instead. The numb is starting to wear off. It is without a doubt..the very worste thing I have ever felt.
I dont know if I should make the 3 hour drive and confront them all one by one or just leave it..learn from tis experience and move on...

Anonymous said...

Ouch! I have been a supporter of bringing the pink elephant out in the room. The weirdness you sense may be their discomfort with the idea, not necessarily that they believe it. If you hide it and isolate, they will make their own story and believe the worst. Some people take friendliness to mean flirting. The tribe will protect their own and outcast the one that is weak. With graceful strength, out the pink elephant.

Anonymous said...

Thank you. This post could not have been more timely. In the two months I've taught at our local studio the rumors and false accusations not only hurt my feelings but didn't serve the studio or the community. Sad really. We're supposed to support each other, not tear each other down ~ especially within our Yoga community!