In the movie Doubt Philip Seymour Hoffman plays a priest who gives a sermon on gossip. I can't stop thinking about this sermon. It went something like this:
A parishioner goes to confession and tells the priest that he really didn't have much to confess, only that he had been gossiping. The priest does not take this lightly and says gossiping is just as harmful as any of the 'serious' sins. What harm can gossiping do the parishioner asks. The priest tells him to go home, get a feather pillow and stand on the roof of a building and slice the pillow open with a knife. The man does this and returns to tell the priest that he has followed his instructions but does not understand. The priest tells the man to go and pick up each feather and put it back into the pillow. That would be impossible says the parishioner. The feathers have flown everywhere. You are right says the priest. This is exactly what happens when you gossip.
Recently I was the subject of some gossip. Nothing earth-shattering or even deal-breaking. But it made me think about how unfair we can be with each other. All it takes is a suggestive hint or a persuasive anectdote to change someone's mind about someone or something. Gossip magazines know this all too well and are able to cash in big time off of our hunger for just a whiff of a story, the slightest intimation of wrong doing on someone else's part.
I'm definitely not an innocent bystander in this discomforting pastime. I've sometimes found myself embellishing details or leaving out important ones to depict myself victim or victorious. I've hinted at impropriety where there was none to make a story interesting or funny. I know that it's not nice. I knew it when I was doing it. But like I said, recently I was the subject of gossip. And when I learned of it I felt hurt and disappointed. I even cried.
Imagine if the gossip was earth-shattering and deal-breaking.