According to the Christian liturgical calendar, we are now into the third week of Lent, which began on Ash Wednesday and will end after Good Friday on the night of Holy Saturday with Easter. Those who take Lent seriously, usually try to work on their spiritual life by spending, as the Church recommends, more time in prayer, fasting and almsgiving. They simultaneously examine their personal life in the light of the Holy Bible, which contains numerous valuable instructions to correct one’s errant ways while also illustrating means of coming closer to God.
Among the various things that the Bible teaches, and many of them are not easy to practice, one that many of us engage in without even being aware of its consequences is the brutal use of our tongue. In common parlance it is called “gossip”. According to the dictionary, gossip is, “casual or unconstrained conversation or reports about other people, typically involving details which are not confirmed as true”.
No wonder then that Pope Francis takes a strong view against gossiping and exhorts all to avoid it at all cost, saying, “Gossiping kills. It kills because the tongue kills, like a knife. Be careful the gossip is a terrorist because he or she throws a bomb and leaves”.
St James in the Bible writes, “Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.” Similarly, St Paul exhorts, “They have become filled with every kind of wickedness... They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil.”
While many Christians give up certain things dear to them during Lent such as chocolates, smoking, cinema and alcohol for self-restraint, few think of curbing on gossiping. It is probably easier to give up on those visible things than tackling an invisible weakness embedded in human nature. Another reason for paying scant attention to the devastating habit of gossiping is because it doesn’t harm one’s own self directly. Little do we realise that when we say mean things about others, we’re assassinating someone’s character.
Using the triple check scale accredited to Socrates can be a practical solution to gossiping: (i) Is what I am about to say, true? (ii) Is what I am about to utter good or positive? (iii) Is what I am going to say helpful to anyone?
And the best is what Jesus taught, “Do ye to others, what you would like them do to you”.