“She’s completely self-involved.”
“You can’t tell me he didn’t know exactly what he was doing!”
“They just bought a new car but are 3 months behind on their light bill!”
“Can you believe the way she treats her step-daughter?”
If you’re human, those little phrases probably piqued your interest. “Tell me more!” screams everything in your psyche. It’s normal. After all, observations of others behaviors not only inform us on how to proceed with certain people but also provide templates for life that we either aspire to or treat as a cautionary tale to inform our own actions. British author Joseph Conrad said “Gossip is what no one claims to like, but everyone enjoys.” This sentiment is so true. I can’t imagine anyone espousing how much they love to gossip and I certainly can’t imagine anyone enjoying being gossiped about. Yet the act of gossiping is something that is so tempting to so many of us.
Most of the time, our lives are dominated by external influences. By someone or something that upsets us. A political event, a sideways remark from a co-worker, or an action taken seemingly against us by a friend or family member. We’ve all experienced these types of perceived slights and often we become overly focused on the negative feelings that result. We focus on it and it subsequently becomes a narrative in our life story. When we feel this frustration our impulse is to vent.
How many times have you reached out to a friend expressing the need to vent about something that is bothering you? Pretty often I’m sure and while this isn’t inherently bad — communicating our feelings in a conscious way is actually a very good thing — if we aren’t careful we’ll end up slipping from venting a frustration to gossiping.
Merriam Webster defines gossip as “a person who habitually reveals personal or sensational facts about others” and a “rumor or report of an intimate nature.” The kabbalists also teach that gossip, or Evil Speech, is the worst form of darkness that there is. It is more than just speaking negatively about someone else, it includes those times when we say things in anger and even when we talk about ourselves negatively. (Yes, you can gossip about yourself too!)
Rav Shimon Bar Yochai describes it this way: “What is a ‘talegoer?’ This refers to someone who is not settled in his mind, and therefore is not trustworthy. This is because the spirit of the one who tells the tales is not settled and not stable. Of him who has a stable spirit, it is said: ‘But he that is of a faithful spirit conceals the matter.’ A faithful spirit means a stable spirit.”
Having a stable spirit means having a connection to the Light and a commitment to speaking positivity instead of negativity. It takes awareness and practice. Of course it is difficult in the moment not to lash out when we are hurt, angry, or sad. But when we bring awareness to the feelings we remember that no one can make us feel anything. Our feelings then become our responsibility and when we respond to life from this place a need to gossip disappears. And if gossip is the worst form of darkness, think of all the negativity that would disappear as a result!
In the times when you are feeling the impulse to vent or gossip about someone or something, bring awareness to your thoughts. What are they saying? What is the quality? Is there a fear behind them? How can you offer yourself more love in that moment instead of overly sharing with another person in order to feel better? By doing this, you stabilize your spirit. You become conscious and as your consciousness rises, negativity begins to dissipate and you can reconnect to the Light.
This practice can bring about positivity in your life, and the lives of others, in a myriad of ways. Siblings would be more loving to one another and less combative. Relationships would become easy, fluid, and strong.
The Rav said “never let negative things enter your mind or come out of your mouth.” Once a negative word is said, it’s said. Once I’ve used that spark it can’t be changed. Everything that we do, say, and think is what we become, what our soul becomes.
Behavioral psychologists have found that the words we use to speak about others actually become the same words people associate with us. For instance, if I were to gossip about someone’s inconsiderate, hateful behavior the person I’m speaking to is more likely to think of me as inconsiderate and hateful. The ramifications of evil speech are profound and perhaps more immediate than we tend to believe. But likewise, if we speak kind words of others we are perceived in that same light.
It is only when a person dies that it is revealed to him what he’s done. Every day a part of our soul leaves this world because every word, action, and thought reveals a part of our soul that then goes to the Supernal Worlds. It no longer remains in our world. Every action manifests a part of our soul that leaves; that can never be changed and that is who we are. We have a choice in every moment to reveal negativity or to reveal the part of us that is true, that is Light. It can begin simply with bringing awareness to our thoughts and choosing our words.
Thought into Action
Bring awareness to the times you feel an impulse to vent, complain, or gossip about someone or something, including yourself. What are the thoughts behind this impulse? How can you bring positivity to this experience instead? Try to focus on the person’s good qualities and balance anything you feel you must share with a generous amount of benefit of the doubt.