Letting Go of Gossip

This Lent, I gave up gossip. This has been tough. I miss the way gossip clarifies your values. It’s like when you watch Nanny 911 and you feel so good and smug about your own parenting skills. You think to yourself, “I would never do THAT!” (But let’s admit, we’ve all done much worse. We just, thankfully, did not have a camera crew following us and recording our parenting failures! Not too worry, those incidents will be remembered by our children who will blame us for years to come.)

In the fall, I met a church executive who told me she left church work for a while to sell Mary Kay cosmetics when her husband was in the military. She said in the Mary Kay biz, you were not allowed to gossip or criticize one another. (I don’t know how they enforce this). But she said it was a good and productive way to work and that she wished she could do this again now that she’s returned to church work.

I know there are positive sides to gossip — studies show it can bind community members together and other studies show that gossip lowers your heart rate. Whatever. From my own experience, gossip undermines creativity and productivity and inhibits trust in coworkers.

At work, I’ve felt stuck when a colleague wants to gossip about another colleague. I have no way to extricate myself.

Here I am at the work Christmas party. I hope I wasn't gossiping. (photo by J. Barnes)Should I?

1. Say nothing, which makes the gossiper think I agree so they keep on gossiping.

2. Say, “I hear you. But I gave up gossip for Lent, so, much as I’d like to join this gossip gravy train right now, I can’t.” No, this makes me feel all holier-than-thou.

3. Don’t talk to anyone. Umm, that’s not happening.

Without gossip, I’m losing an opportunity to bond.

On my Twitter feed the other day, another woman church executive wrote a tweet, something like, “We remember best the people who supported us most.” I want to be that person — the one remembered for being supportive, creative, and productive, not negative or gossipy.

I do want my heart rate lowered and I do want to bond with my colleagues. So after Easter, I may have to dive back in the gossip pool. Or I may not. There’s a lot to talk about besides each other. And there’s a lot to admire in one another. I’m a big fan of admiring my colleagues. And I want to keep admiring people more (not less).

But as one other coworker told me, “I never gossip. But you want to know who does???” (ba dum bum!)

Tiger Woods

Ask me if I care about the infidelity of Tiger Woods. My answer is a loud and clear No!

Let me rephrase that, “No, thank you. I’ve had enough.”

Besides, I’m trying to find the good. I just finished writing an article about women artists in Haiti making gratitude journals for income. That, to me, is worth paying attention to. 

Who wouldn’t want to read about people making a positive difference? Do we all really want to feast on the latest celebrity to implode?

Let’s face it. It’s hard to praise. It’s easy to criticize. It’s hard to create. It’s easy to destroy. (Even in this blog post, I’m going negative about people going negative.)

But let me try to remember My Rule Numer 5:  Expect the best, love what you get.

Maybe I’m thinking about all of this, because I have given up gossip and criticism for Lent. I’m feeling righteous. And it’s really hard. (My friend Barbara told me not to give up both — one or the other. But heck, I’m an overachiever!)

I want to go through life finding the good in people. It’s actually harder to be happy, joyful, optimistic than it is to critical, snarky, mean.

Does anyone have any good news? I’m open to hear it.