“You have heard that it was said to the men of old, ‘You shalt not kill’ ... But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be liable to council” (v. 21-22). In this way, Jesus reminds us that words can kill! When we say that a person has the tongue of a snake, what does that mean? That their words kill! Not only is it wrong to take the life of another, but it is also wrong to bestow the poison of anger upon him, strike him with slander, and speak ill of him.
This brings us to gossip: gossip can also kill, because it kills the reputation of the person! It is so terrible to gossip! At first it may seem like a nice thing, even amusing, like enjoying a candy. But in the end, it fills the heart with bitterness, and even poisons us. What I am telling you is true, I am convinced that if each one of us decided to avoid gossiping, we would eventually become holy! What a beautiful path that is! Do we want to become holy? Yes or no? Do we want to be attached to the habit of gossip? Yes or no? So we agree then: no gossiping! Jesus offers the perfection of love to those who follow him: love is the only measure that has no measure, to move past judgements."
(Pope Francis, Sunday Angelus Message, February 16, 2014)In times gone by, duels and feuds often settled disputes between factions and families. Now, we no longer slay with the sword, but with the tongue. Gossip is used in various ways: sometimes to avenge, other times to prop up one's pride, still other times it can be used as jocular banter, and frequently it is used as filler rather than accepting an awkward silence in conversation. Advancement in technology has widened the "broad way". Constant communication demands constant vigilance. Voyeurism which is an inverted form of gossip can lead to either passing judgment or making unhealthy comparisons, which may cast doubt and anxiety in fragile or even healthy relationships.
The constant judgment of others so permeates our thoughts and words, that we often do not recognize its presence. We may temper it for a time, but still keep the poison in the medicine cabinet to be taken out in times of laziness, anger or pride.
Why the persistent need to analyze another's motives? Why the curious and idle desire to spend time talking, thinking or reading about others? The devil well knows the strong resistance to industry or discipline, meekness, and humility- antidotes to the weaknesses that prompt gossip. He perverts our perspective on gossip, making us believe it can relieve our stress, lighten our hearts, or give us confidence in the way we are living. He particularly preys on us when we are striving to live a righteous life, but our just cause does not give license to uncharitable thoughts, or unmerciful comments.
If others were privy to our conversations, or time on the Internet, would they be shocked to learn we were Christian? If they could see into our hearts when we pass judgment on our spouse, would they surprised that we made a solemn vow to honor them? Would they see our self-rightesouness or our self-reflection? But wait. There is One who does see. And as the Pope says, He offers us His remedies of silence and charity:
"Jesus offers the perfection of love to those who follow him: love is the only measure that has no measure, to move past judgements."During the upcoming season of Lent, the Church encourages us to learn the practice of fasting from innocuous pleasures in order to discipline our bodies; but more importantly, to prompt us, as the body and soul are connected, to learn to deny ourselves from sinful pleasures to discipline our souls.