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Word Magazine November 1957 Page 244
DO YOU KNOW WHAT GOSSIP IS?
By Rt. Rev. Archimandrite Gregory Abboud
The word gossip has an interesting origin, and came to have its present meaning in a roundabout way. Originally, it came from the Anglo-Saxon word “Godsib”, which means “related to God”. The word referred to a sponsor at one’s baptism. Thus, a “Godsib” was a close friend who was familiar with you and knew all about you.
It didn’t take long for the idea of “knowing all about you”, to change to “telling all about you”, and the present meaning of the word “Gossip” was born. (The Friend).
Gossip, then, is the telling all about you. It is not to honour you, or to elevate you to higher dignity. It is not to make people think well of you, certainly not, it is to humiliate you, to ridicule you and to destroy you while you are alive … George Meredith said: Gossip is a beast of prey who does not even wait for the death of the victim he devours.
Once upon a time, the great philosopher Plato, asked his disciples: What is the difference between a Crow and a Gossiper? All were astonished to hear that question from the greatest philosopher of his time. After they thought it over and over, they found it ridiculous to answer such a banal question. None of them could answer.
“Please Master” said one of his disciples, “what is the answer?” And Plato replied “there is no difference between a Crow and a Gossiper, but the one eats the people when they are dead, the other, when they are alive . . . both of them are eaters of people . . .
Gossip is against natural law, and against Christianity. The natural law forbids us to reveal what we knew secretly, or confidentially, above all when this concerns anyone’s reputation.
It is against Christianity and its basic principle — the Charity, which teaches us to respect and love one another the same way we love ourselves.
Nothing is more precious than one’s reputation, and the Holy writings say: A good name is better than great riches (PROVERBS 22,) and: Take care of a good name for this shall continue with thee, more than a thousand treasures precious and great. (ECCLESIASTICUS 41-15)
If then we want to be respected let us respect one another. Doing this, we show ourselves, our conscience and our neighbor that we are religious people, fearing God and walking in the path of His Commandments. If not, religion is very far from our hearts and people are farther away in their trust and confidence from us. Who does not fear God does not fear you. “If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue but deceiveth his own heart, this man’s religion is vain” (JAMES 1:26).
Notice dear friends, that gossipers, and bearers of ill will cannot be trusted. They will tell you one story and another to someone else just to create trouble. Avoid them, like you would the plague. A good tree gives good fruits and vice versa.
Many times over we lose our friendships on account of an incident we report on somebody or to somebody. The idea of reporting is always to please the one you report to, and put down the one reported. There is always the lack of good intention, if there was one, you will go to your neighbor and tell him directly. The Holy Spirit said: If thy brother sin against thee, go and show him his fault, between thee and him alone. If he listens to thee, thou hast won thy brother. But if he does not listen to thee, take with thee one or two more so that on the word of two or three witnesses every word may be confirmed. And if he refuses to hear them appeal to the Church, but if he refuses to hear even the church, let him be to thee as the heathen and the publican (MATTHEW 18, 15-18).
There is no rule that you must report your brother to everybody. If you want, dear friend, to live honestly, decently and in one word religiously, which is the aim of every human, follow the teachings of the Holy Spirit. You will feel happy in yourself and many more people will respect you and love you if you care for their love and respect, if not, you will still have the consolation of a good conscience pleasing God.
We will never regret a thing done in the Spirit of God because it is the right and only way to do it. The effect of gossip is well outlined in this following story:
This is the story of a poor peasant who with a troubled conscience went to a man of God for advice. He said he had circulated a vile story about a friend and later he had found that his story was untrue. “If you want to make peace with your conscience” said the man of God, you must fill a bag with chicken feathers, go to every dooryard in the village and drop in each one of them one fluffy feather.” The peasant did what he was told, then he came back and announced he had done penance for his folly. “Not yet,” replied the man of God. “Take your bag to the rounds again and gather up every feather that you have dropped.” “But the wind must have blown them all away,” said the peasant. “Yes my son,” said the man of God, “and so it is with gossip. Unkind words are so easy dropped but we can never take them back again.”
“He that keepeth his mouth keepeth his life: But He that openeth wide his lips shall have destruction.” (PROVERB 13).
“A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver.” (PROV. CH. 25).