There is a passage from the gospel that always makes me cringe, because in it, Jesus speaks about insulting others and speaking ill to or of them, and that is one of my own greatest failures.
Gossip and unfavorable judgments about others are so terribly easy! No two people see reality from exactly the same point of view. There is tremendous variety among us human beings, in terms of our background, our parentage, our education, our personalities, our likes and dislikes, our ways of expressing ourselves, our social standing, our virtues, our vices, and on and on. And we tend to think that our way is the better way, if not the best, and those who don’t see things our way are wrong or foolish or sinful or malicious. And we are quick to share our unfavorable opinions about others with still other people, because it seems to make us feel that we are better if we can make others look worse. Hence, gossip and unkind speech and judgments about others.
We will never overcome all our negative or censorious opinions about others, but we can try hard to avoid expressing those opinions to those who don’t have any need to hear them. If you are among the majority of people who gossip and then confess it the sacrament of penance, let me suggest this: make a mental list of those people about whom you habitually speak unkindly. And then make another mental list of those people with whom you habitually engage in gossip because you know that they enjoy it as much as you do. Then, when you are WITH your fellow-gossipers, BE CAREFUL! And when a conversation turns to those whom you most often gossip about, BE CAREFUL! You’re in danger of offending God and neighbor in both those cases.
In this regard, there is the wonderful old story of the Irish lady who NEVER offended by what she said concerning others. So one day, someone decided to put her to the ultimate test. “Mrs. O’Brien,” he said to her, “what do you think about the devil?” The old lady thought for a moment and then she said, “Well, he certainly manages to keep busy!” Thank you for seeking God’s truth, God Bless you. Father Victor Brown, O.P.
Note: This message was composed some years ago.