Today a guest poster takes on a topic of subtle importance.
There’s no God in gossip. I learn this at work, at home, among friends. Sometimes by positive reinforcement (I don’t gossip, and I feel better for it), sometimes by negative (I gossip, and I feel worse for it or confused by it). When I gossip, it’s because I want control. By pulling the information I want out of others and by doling out morsels as I see fit, I feel like a master spy orchestrating events to come to a conclusion of my devising. The reality is, in fact, humiliating.
You see, when I’m gossiping and trying to gain control, it’s usually of situation that doesn’t exist now and probably won’t ever. Or it’s of a situation I can never control. It’s all a fantasy world ordered by my ego, designed by my mind, and shaped by my fears. When I gossip, I am trying to dictate the flow of information to fill in the missing parts of the fantasy world in my head. Is this person my friend? Who is allied against me? What can I count on happening? What surprises lay in store for me? What’s the real scoop?
The sad part about it? I’m wasting all my creative energies by taking bad things that happened before (and maybe not even to me) and projecting them into the future. What if instead of gossiping and indulging these dark fantasies I simply applied my focus to the task at hand? My work. My marriage. My friendships. To helping others, in other words. That’s where the program tells me God is. Not in controlling.
In fact, gossiping can be harmful not only to me, but to others. Obviously, I’m wasting others’ time to begin with. But by gossiping, I’m yanking people out of reality and into my projections. I’m potentially filling them with misinformation that they might act upon or that might negatively impact their perception of another person or a situation. After all, slander is gossip’s frequent traveling companion. I’m sowing seeds of confusion or even enmity.
At its most reductive, when I’m gossiping, I am substituting gossip for God. I am not trusting and relying on God, I am trusting and relying on my smoke-filled back-room skills. Just like I substitute food for God when I’m eating compulsively. The hit from food doesn’t last very long. It’s a poor and short buzz. Gossip is little better. I want to know more and more, and I like the surge of power that comes from sharing it with furtive declarations such as “This has to stay between us….” But anything that gives me that surge is suspect. It’s always my self-centeredness trying to wrest control of me from my spiritually awakened self.
There can be a fine line between gathering necessary information and gossiping. Anyone who has worked in middle management knows that when you are trusted with the care of others’ professional lives, it’s important to know what changes may be coming or what tensions exist between departments. The question is how to know the difference between necessary discussion and gossip.
It seems that, for the most part, my intuition signals me. When I’m about to cross the line from legitimate water cooler talk to gossip, I tend to get a strong gut-level indication. A wincing of my conscience, perhaps. Sometimes I listen to that signal, sometimes I don’t. When I do, I feel freer. As I write, I realize that the best way to handle these situations is to enter them with God. If I ask for help and guidance before beginning to speak with someone, I stand a better chance of listening to that intuitive thought. If I listen to that thought, there’s no doubt I’ll have a better day.
In the end, the biggest of the big pictures is that God will help me no matter what the outcome of any situation. I can count on that, so the need to control doesn’t exist. Literally does not exist. It only seems real, but it’s a figment of my addict mind’s imagination. Just like the magical powers I give to food when I eat compulsively.