No, it is not part of the 12 commandments so we often think that is perfectly alright to gossip especially when we are offended by someone. It is a nasty way of getting even. Some people even call it therapy so they make fun of their victims. No wonder back-talks are so rampant. It happens in the office, sari-sari store hang-outs, bars and wherever two or more heads come together.
We could even be guilty ourselves when we subconsciously join in the chatter about somebody else. There is some kind of thrill in contributing information (more often an exaggerated version) and making a juicy item even juicier at the expense of other people. Does it even come as a surprise that tabloid blind items are devoured like hotcakes?
But gossip is not just plain senseless chatter. While we often think that telltales are harmless and passing, it can actually be a bad reflection on the rumormongerer. Yes, that could be me and you. M.Farouk Radwan explains in his article “The Psychology of Gossip” that it is a sign of “low self esteem, jealousy, frustration, anger and weakness.”
“Ate, magandang salita po ba ang hinayupak?” (Is the word “hinayupak” good?) Mimi’s maid asked. There is no direct translation of “hinayupak”. It is coined from the Tagalog term “hayop” or animal.
Mimi wondered where the househelp picked up the word. “Well, it depends. If it is said jokingly, it is okay. But if said when mad, it could be bad. Why?”
“I overheard your mother-in-law call you ‘hinayupak kong manugang’ (loosely translated as an animal-like daughter-in-law) as she spoke to her sister and it did not sound good.” No wonder her husband’s relatives give her a funny look and a cold shoulder treatment during family gatherings.
A few months after, her mother-in-law’s storekeeper remarked at Mimi, “You’re not that bad. Your mother-in-law told me you have an attitude.”
Norman had it worse. His production assistant spread the rumor that he has been keeping the office kitty to himself and uses the money to renovate his house. The technical people came to Norman’s defense. He was just not the type to do it. He has always been fair and square with them in the distribution of talent fees even of food during production work.
Norman was lucky his good reputation protected him from the vicious gossip of a young gossiper. It was just quite unfortunate for Mimi to be an unwitting victim of one person she trusted.
Going beyond skin deep, jealousy might have been the main reason why the production assistant spread lies about Norman. The girl is an only child used to getting all of her parents’ attention. It must have been hard for the brat to accept that someone was getting better praises so she attempted to discredit her immediate supervisor. Lucky for Norman, his colleagues’ belief in him quashed the bad press release before it went too far.
Mimi’s mother-in-law, on the other hand, may have been driven by a sense of low self-esteem. She is person with disability and tried to compensate her physical weakness with a strong presence. Her voice is booming and bosses everybody around with her nitpicking in an attempt to put up an air of superiority. It must have been harder to sustain her superficial confidence when her son married a professional whom everyone found quite pleasing so she did everything to discredit her daughter-in-law with every opportunity she gets.
Understanding the psychology of the tittle-tattler may help the offended party to be more magnanimous but more often than not, the ugly scars stay. It took a while before Norman forgave his erring subordinate but he made sure walls were built between them. Mimi may have chosen to forgive her mother-in-law out of love for her husband but the crack of distrust forever stays in her mind affecting their relationship one way or the other.
Gossip hurts way deep than we can ever imagine. No wonder it is aptly called backstabbing. Pope Francis put it succinctly as he branded gossip as murder. In his September 14, 2013 homily at the Vatican, he pointed out that “when we participate in this sin, we imitate Cain’s gesture in killing his brother Abel.”
He expounded on the First Letterof John the Apostle, “anyone who has hatred for his brother is a murderer, he walks in darkness, he who judges his brother walks in darkness,” and that those who judge or speak ill of others are “Christian murderers.”
Ouch! That means we are no better than the cold-blooded criminal in death row. So how do we bite our tongue in the face of very tempting chinwags?
Pope Francis gives a heavenly motivation for a down-to-earth advice. Although some people believe certain persons deserve to be gossiped about, he encouraged the Mass-goers to “Go and pray for him! Go and do penance for her! And then, if it is necessary, speak to that person who may be able to seek remedy for the problem. But don’t tell everyone!”
The spirit may be willing to change but the flesh is too weak to resist. That is where the grace comes in. Pope Francis adds, ““We ask for grace so that we and the entire Church may convert from the crime of gossip to love, to humility, to meekness, to docility, to the generosity of love towards our neighbor.”
Amen to that.
(Written by Jasmine B. Barrios at the Philippine Online Chronicles)
Photo: “The boring life of a gossip” by Sili[k], c/o Flickr. Some Rights Reserved