I embrace the person I am because I have a mother whose heart is full of optimism, strength, greatness and whimsy. She’s cheered me on through every stage of life (and continues to be my number one fan), teaching me to always try harder; to love fully; to be passionate about justice but never underestimating the art of grace; to dance joyfully through life with God; and to never assume someone’s story. There is much, much more, but like with all things she’s taught me, I have realized, are revealed through time, when I am least aware.
Gossip—be it in the form of a rumor that’s sweeping the nation or a gripe session between friends—reflects the insecurity of those who initiate it. When we make negative statements about others behind their backs, we often do so because we want to feel powerful—and that’s usually because we in some way feel powerless, unworthy, not courageous enough to be forthright. Hurtful words also send the message—both to ourselves and to those with whom we share them—that we can’t be trusted. If someone is willing to tear down one “friend,” why wouldn’t she be willing to disparage another? Gossip means we haven’t emboldened ourselves to talk directly to the people we take issue with, so we belittle them—playwright Jules Feiffer calls it “committing little murders.” In short, gossip is an assassination attempt by a coward.
We live in a culture obsessed with gossip—who’s wearing what, who’s dating whom, who’s entangled in the latest sex scandal. What would happen if we declared our homes, our relationships or our lives gossip-free zones? We’d probably be surprised at how much time we’d free up to do the work that’s most significant—building our dreams rather than tearing down others’. We’d fill our homes with a spirit of truth that would make visitors want to kick off their shoes and stay awhile. And we’d remember that while words have the power to destroy, they also have the power to heal.