Hearts at Work
—A Column by Jim Tipton
What is gossip? Here are some indicators: 1) You talk about someone and your intention is not “good will,” 2) You say things you would not say to that person’s face, 3) You pass on to others details that you do not really know anything about.
Generally a gossip is filled with self-hatred and self-loathing and incapable of sustaining deep relationships. Those dirty little secrets a gossip loves to reveal to you…are they really expressions of “good will”? That is the best test. Is there really a fine line between “sharing” and “gossip”? Or is that more akin to Dave Barry’s comment, “There’s a fine line between ‘hobby’ and ‘mental illness.’”? Gossips often disguise their gossip as “sharing” or as “news.” Often they hide their own gossip by passing it on as what “other” gossips are saying.
A gossip is often attractive, sometimes witty, and even willing to become your “best buddy.” Often a gossip has a long list of past lovers, dozens, perhaps even hundreds, none of whom the gossip remains in touch with because at heart the gossip is incapable of intimacy.
Gossip cliques, where each participant has similar self-esteem issues, can become modern “lynch mobs.” They do make life less pleasurable for others, and sometimes even destroy lives. A “Gossips Anonymous” modeled after Alcoholics Anonymous might help these people. There they could share the sordid details of their own lives. But, I suspect, at the end of each meeting they would race out, cell phones in hand.
“Small” people gossip. “Big” people talk about others with good will; they talk about ideas; art; how to make the world a better place; they talk about the positive learning experiences of their own pasts; they talk about spiritual issues, why we are, after all, alive and on this planet for a few decades. A few things to think about:
Those who listen to gossip without responding are “accessories to the crime.” How can you respond? Tell those gossiping that you will take them to the subject of their gossip where they can confront first hand their subject. Say something positive about the subject.
Gossips do not want to know the truth and they will twist what they do know to fit their own preconceived ideas. False pride prevents them from speaking the truth, and likewise false pride prevents them from going to their victims and asking them the truth.
False pride also makes it very difficult for gossips to apologize to their victims. Gossips usually resent the subjects of their gossip.
If they gossip about others to you, they will gossip about you to others. Rarely does a gossip ever “fess up.” It is, like drugs, a very difficult addiction to do something about. Their creed is: “If you can’t say something good about someone, let’s get together for coffee.”
If you gossip, never underestimate the power of a sincere apology. Do not turn your apology into another manipulation using words like, “I’m sorry for your reaction to my behavior.” That keeps you and your addiction in charge. Instead, offer a contrite and simple, “I’m sorry I hurt you.”
Remember Mother Teresa’s words: “We are on earth to love and be loved.”
Jim’s latest book, Washing Dishes in the Ancient Village/Lavando platos en el pueblo antiguo, is a collection of 100 short poems–in both English and Spanish. Some are humorous, erotic or serious. Available for $10.95 plus $3.00 shipping and handling through Bread & Butter Press, 1150 S. Glencoe, Denver, CO 80246.
His recent collection of haiku, Proposing to the Woman in the Rear View Mirror, which William J. Higginson, author of The Haiku Handbook, says were written “by a man who is not afraid to be himself,” can be ordered for $9.95 plus shipping and handling at www.modernenglishtankapress.com