You see all sorts at the Y where I go swim everyday. Every skin color, body type and temperament are on full (excuse the pun) display in the locker room. One guy used to spend the whole time in the steam and shower area picking dead skin off his hands. Yuck! I thought. At least I’m not like him, but, alas, a couple of years later a similar affliction came my way. Once I got to know the man, Jim, I found him very likeable and authentic.
Here again, the conundrum, I am my own harshest judge. Don’t punish me God, I’ll do it myself! I can only see in others that which exists in me. Otherwise, how would I recognize it? There would be no resonance.
In Buddhism there is a precept of not speaking of others’ faults. If you don’t have something good to say about a person, don’t say anything at all.
It’s difficult to do. For one, knowledge is power; it’s a commodity sometimes as valuable as legal tender. If I know something someone else doesn’t know, I’ve got some power in the situation. For another, we get to assuage our fear of our own fragility by saying, “At least I’m not like him.” A juvenile, but pervasive response (see above).
Most importantly, however, is the feeling that by spreading gossip about someone else, I’m developing closeness or intimacy with the person with whom I’m sharing it. It’s a method of protecting myself from the dangers of intimacy by buffering it with a story of someone else! What games we play.
Next time you’re tempted to talk about someone else, pause. Take a moment between stimulus and response to consider the implications of your next words. How would you feel if someone said this about you? What if my words were to come back to haunt me (as they often do in gossip)?
Our lives get full of pollutants over time. Our spirits do also. One of those that might be easiest to eliminate is gossip. Speak of others only as you would like to be spoken about. Life will feel lighter. A sense of camaraderie can emerge as we realize: We’re all in this together, and we’re all doing the best we can.