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By Joe Babendreier
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The work day was dragging. It was close to 5 o’clock. Rumours began about the boss. The temptation to join in the gossip was irresistible. Everyone felt compelled to jump in when someone mentioned a juicy detail. It seemed as if everyone already knew it even though it was the first time anyone heard it.

You’ve probably been in that situation. What should you do? Is there anything truly wrong with gossip? Isn’t it just a natural part of social life?

I am friends with a certain Catholic priest. We are very good friends and I have known him for many years. Somebody started spreading rumours about him, saying that he had violated his commitment to celibacy. The rumours were nasty in the extreme. I saw him suffer. The rumours were total lies. He was absolutely innocent.

It took a year — a whole year — before the bishop finally worked out the truth and discovered that the priest was, as he had always claimed, without any fault whatsoever. Eventually the rumours died down and disappeared.

Before then, it was a crucifixion for the priest, suffering while the gossip heated up and the rumours spread far and wide. It was the kind of trial that can ruin a person’s reputation even when authorities later try to set the record straight.

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Rumours mean one thing. People are talking, simply assuming the rumours must be true. Why? Because everyone is talking about it. It’s a twisted kind of ‘grapevine democracy’. You cast your ‘vote’ by spreading the gossip.

Of course, you wouldn’t say anything if you knew that the gossip was false. You might even have the courage to stop others from spreading it.

Even so, far from presuming that someone is innocent until proven guilty, we are tainted with a malicious trait that assumes the exact opposite. We are all tainted with a negativism that leads us to assume the worst even when we do not have a shred of evidence to support the verdict.

Isn’t gossip just a natural part of life? You should not engage in an activity that hurts others. That’s the point. Gossip hurts other people. Just think how you would feel if you were the target of the gossip. Don’t do something to others if you would be justifiably outraged at people doing the same thing to you.



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