“So-and-So said she wasn’t going to be friends with So-and-So anymore, because she’s too bossy and thinks she can tell everyone what to do. And I think it’s true, because yesterday…”
Somehow I was under the delusion that I had more time before having to discuss this with my kids, but at 7 and 9 I’m learning that gossip is already a thing.
Addressing it is challenging. I remember the strange bonding effect I felt myself when I partook in it as a preteen and beyond. Yes, I knew it was “wrong,” but as long as it was true and everyone swore “not to tell anyone,” I felt safe and justified in participating.
Even as an adult who understands the violation gossip is to my own values and is committed to something bigger, when I feel slighted I am still confronted by the urge to tell someone about it so they can commiserate with me and shoot invisible daggers at the “wrong doer.”
When I refrain, though, and pray for the healing of another’s pain, even as I know they are gossiping behind my back, there is peace and a freedom of energy that informs me I have made a choice of integrity. That’s what I want my kids to experience early on.
It’s important to me that I address this topic head on with them, especially because research indicates that a child who gossips tends to be rewarded with more popularity and stronger social bonds. At an age in which social approval means so much, that’s a tough tide to swim against. But I pray my words break through.
I wish for my kids to be thought leaders who recognize that gossip is not harmless chatter, but disrespect and unkindness issued in a manner that can take on a life of its own, even despite benign intentions. While we value the virtue of courage, gossip is a coward’s preferred method of communication. If something needs to be said, better to say it personally and to the person who needs to hear it most.
Those who receive gossip should recognize that the one dishing it out is very likely serving up more of it about everyone (s)he encounters…with no exceptions. Participating does not make you exempt. In fact, those who participate are actually more likely to become victims of it.
Gossip spreads like an insidious mutating virus, and can have lasting effects that can be unimaginably destructive. We like to think our casual chatter doesn’t wield such destructive power, but the truth is “sticks and stones” can have nothing on the potentially harmful effects of irresponsible talk.
I tell my kids their words are magic, and to use the magic of their tongue wisely. None of us gets it right all the time, of course, but when we make a strong commitment to be used for the forces of Love, we will recognize the temptation for gossip as an opportunity for prayer instead.
How do YOU combat gossip? What do you say to kindly stop it in its tracks? And how do you approach this with your own kids? We’d love to know your thoughts in COMMENTS, and as always thank you for the SHARES, “LIKES,” and LOVE!