Gossip is a seductive and enticing poison. Many of us fall for its lure and its intoxication. There are many different reasons we engage in gossip. We may think we feel better about ourselves by putting someone else down, we may be jealous of what another has, envious because we wish someone ill, or maybe someone just rubs us the wrong way. The reason that we may feel justified in choosing to gossip is when someone has hurt, offended, or wronged us in some way. Even in that instance, we observe Jesus offering a different approach in today’s Gospel.
Jesus said to his disciples: “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone” (Mt 18:15). Jesus is drawing on his Jewish heritage. Leviticus 19:17 warns against holding hate in your heart and instead encourages seeking to reason with your brother. Jesus is redirecting us from adding fuel to the fire by seeking revenge or stewing in our own hurt, which will build resentment and hate. Instead, he is inviting us to seek reconciliation.
Pope Francis, in his September 9, 2016, General Audience was very clear: “[G]ossip is a ‘terrorist’ who throws a grenade – chatter – in order to destroy,” he added. “Please, fight against division, because it is one of the weapons that the devil uses to destroy the local Church and the universal Church.” Let us refuse to be a weapon of the devil in his plot to divide us with our thoughts or our words, but instead, seek to be a disciple of Jesus by advocating for forgiveness and reconciliation.
To do so, we need to commit to being more discerning with our tongue. With our words, we can cut, wound, and destroy, or we can convict, reconcile, and heal. Let us choose to lift up and empower one another. It is indeed much easier to grumble about someone than to approach them in love and hold them accountable. If we are not quite ready for that, Pope Francis invites us to “bite our tongue” instead or we can choose to pray about the situation with someone we trust: “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them” (Mt 18-20). In seeking the help of Jesus, we will have a better chance of choosing reconciliation over gossip.
Image credit: “Jesus and the Lamb” by Katherine Brown