Sunday, March 15, 2009

Why Gossip Is a Sin

People like to talk about other people. For some, it seems like their favorite hobby. Others act like it is their vocation! But we all do it to a certain extent. It is part of living in a society with others, in community with others. Human beings are relational creatures, so we need to live with others. But we need to realize that our words have the potential to harm those relationships, and we need to be especially wary of the sin of Gossip.

Gossip is when we relate personal or sensitive facts about another to a person who really has no business knowing them. And even if what we say is quite true, if we gossip we sin against the eighth commandment, not to bear false witness against our neighbor. And we also contribute to sin if we listen to gossip and take it to heart.

Consider the following excerpts from the Catechism.

"Truthfulness keeps to the just mean between what ought to be expressed and what ought to be kept secret: it entails honesty and discretion..." (2469)

"Repect for the reputation of persons forbids every attitude and word likely to cause them unjust injury..." (2477)

"To avoid rash judgment, everyone should be careful to interpret insofar as possible his neighbor's thoughts, words, and deeds in a favorable way..." (2478)

"Detraction and calumny destroy the reputation and honor of one's neighbor. Honor is the social witness given to human dignity, and everyone enjoys a natural right to the honor of his name and reputation and to respect. Thus, detraction and calumny offend against the virtues of justice and charity." (2479)

"Boasting or bragging is an offense against truth. So is irony aimed at disparaging someone by maliciously caricaturing some aspect of his behavior." (2481)

And of course lying is the most fundamental offense against the truth. "It is a profanation of speech, whereas the purpose of speech is to communicate known truth to others. The deliberate intention of leading a neighbor into error by saying things contrary to the truth constitutes a failure in justice and charity." (2485)

Sadly, many good people violate one or more of the above precepts on a daily basis, and brush aside the injustice as "mere gossip." But a "mere" sin is a sin nonetheless, and a violation of justice and charity.

Please think on these words from the Catechism the next time you are tempted to share that "juicy gossip," and ask yourself whether you are using your words to build up or break down your neighbor.