It seemed to be, from the outset, an innocent conversation. There was something akin to concern and worry expressed in the eyes, and the body language and facial expression appeared sincere enough. Yet, some time later when reflecting on the conversation all I felt was a sense of ill-ease. I had been clearly duped by the speaker, what was shared........ it was purely gossip.
There is an art to gossip. It is so cunning how cleverly it can be mastered and dressed up to look like it is dripping in concern and care. It is so cunning how you can be lead along a pathway that appears so innocent from the outset, yet when you look back with hindsight you realise that it was in fact not a pathway lined with flowers of lightness, of affirmation, appreciation or celebration, but littered instead with tidbits of rubbish about another.
How often do we get duped? How do we think we are hearing care and concern, but actually there is an edge to what is spoken that is tainted with judgement and even condemnation?
The family member who walked out or is about to walk out on their spouse. The friend who doesn't keep on top of their home commitments. The sick, the depressed, the struggling new parent.... how often are the words spoken about them actually edged with a layer of rebuke and dissatisfaction about how they are allegedly not measuring up?
There is an art to gossip. It can plant seeds of distrust. It can cause people to put on masks and keep things superficial. It can keep families locked in dysfunction and individuals on the edge of community.
"You should have seen..."
"I can't believe..."
"I wonder why.."
"Did you realise..."
All could be sentences starters that capture and ensnare you to go down a track that causes someone else's reputation to be up for question.
Just how much of what is said about a friend, an acquaintance, a family member, a workmate is based on actual fact and the truth of their circumstances? Just how much truth is actually being shared, rather than opinion? There is an art to gossip.
Tongues love to wag when hands are not kept busy on good and right things. Tongues love to fool and woo us into believing it is because there is underlying care and kindness intended. Yet, how destructive, how negative, how plain old judgemental is the content of what is being spoken actually truly being? There is indeed an art to gossip, and some have mastered it deceptively well.
As our children grow up, I am often saying to them, "Unless it is helpful, unless it is kind, do not say it." This small and simple guidance I am endeavouring to impart to them is intended to plant a forest of wisdom. There is far too much mis-information shared in family and social circles that only proves to keep people from being in sound and good relationships with each other. There is far too much whispers and sideways glances as to the intent behind someone's actions or words. A hasty and quick judgement can seal a door that once was previously open. Unless it is helpful, unless it is kind, we should be far more careful about releasing our words than we are.
There is an art to gossip. There is an art to practising tall poppy syndrome. There is an art to looking down upon others and their circumstances. There is an art to generalisations and determinations of the underlying intention of a completely separate individual. There is an art to keeping people locked up in cages and surrounded by boxes.
There is an art to gossip, to what is in fact slander....... and it really ISN'T a pretty picture. It pays to take an audit occasionally.