By Henrylito D. Tacio
ONCE upon a time, there were three priests who came together in a park. While talking with each other, they started to reveal their innermost secrets. “I have used the church’s money in building my mother’s house,” bared the first. “Please don’t tell anyone about this.”
“My problem is,” the second revealed, “I have impregnated a beautiful lady. She will deliver our baby soon.” Like the first priest, he urged that it, too, should be kept a secret.
“What about you?” the two asked the third priest.
“Mine is not really that immense,” he said. “I just can’t control my tongue. You see, when I hear some secrets, I can’t help myself but share them with others.”
Among Filipinos, gossiping is one of their favorite pastimes. This is the reason why gossip magazines are very popular. In addition, talk shows that feature some sort of the secrets of famous people are a hit among viewers.
In the olden times, gossip was resorted to normalize and reinforce moral boundaries in a speech community; foster and build a sense of community with shared interests and information; entertain and divert participants in gossip-sessions; retail and develop stories and even legends; build structures and social accountability, and reflect unvarnished and spontaneous public opinion.
In modern times, however, “gossip” has taken a new level. It simply means “spreading of rumor and misinformation, often through excited conversation over scandals.” Mostly, people don’t admit they are involved in gossip. Someone may say, “I don’t mean to talk about her, but…” and what comes next is a litany of untruth facts. The more interesting the gossip, the more likely it is to be untrue.
Sometimes, gossip takes the form of false sympathy. “I really took pity on my neighbor who is being beaten by her husband once he goes home drunk.” Others start the conversation with a question: “Is it true that the 17-year-old daughter of our school principal is pregnant?”
Gossips have been cataloged in three different types: vest-button type (always popping off), vacuum-cleaner type (always picking up dirt), and liniment type (always rubbing it in). Which of these are very familiar to you?
“Gossip is one of the so-called ‘little’ sins that even Christians are often unable or unwilling to avoid,” said William McElroy. “It is, to be sure, a common sin, but can it truly be called ‘little’? Gossip can destroy reputations, disrupt families, divide neighbors, and cause widespread heartbreak and all to no purpose except the satisfaction that some find in passing on idle or malicious tales.”
There was a time when British statesman Winston Churchill who, in the twilight of his career, attended an official function. Two dignitaries seated three or four rows behind him spoke in whispers.
One said: “There’s Churchill. They say he’s failing badly.” The other replied: “So, I’ve heard. They say he’s not only feeble but growing more and more senile.”
As Churchill was leaving at the close of the session, he paused, leaned over to speak to his detractors, and said, “They also say he’s hard of hearing.”
“Gossip,” novelist George Elliot once wrote, “is a sort of smoke that comes from the dirty tobacco-pipes of those who diffuse it; it proves nothing but the bad taste of the smoker.” Joseph Conrad states: “Gossip is what no one claims to like, but everybody enjoys.”
Bestselling author Erica Jong considers gossip as “the opiate of the oppressed.” Sholom Aleichem describes gossip as “nature’s telephone.” Walter Winchell has this idea: “Gossip is the art of saying nothing in a way that leaves practically nothing unsaid.”
But how can you stop someone from gossiping about you? Mildred, the church gossip and self-appointed monitor of the church’s morals, kept sticking her nose into other people’s business. Of course, several church members did not approve of her extra-curricular activities but feared her enough to maintain their silence.
However, she made a mistake when she accused Frank, a new member, of being an alcoholic after she saw his old pickup parked in front of the town’s only bar one afternoon.
Mildred emphatically told Frank (and several others) that everyone seeing it there would know what he was doing!
Frank, a man of few words, stared at her for a moment and just turned and walked away. He didn’t explain, defend, or deny. He said nothing at all.
Later that evening, Frank quietly parked his pickup in front of Mildred’s house, walked home, and left it there all night!
To end today’s column, allow me to share a story that was posted on a friend’s Facebook. It goes this way:
Once upon a time, an old man spread rumors that his neighbor was a thief. As a result, the young man was arrested. Days later, the young man was proven innocent. After he was released, he sued the old man for wrongly accusing him.
In court, the old man told the judge: “They were just comments, didn’t harm anyone….”
The judge, before passing the judgment, told the old man: “Write all the things you said about him on a piece of paper. Cut them up. On the way home, throw the pieces of paper out. Tomorrow, come here to hear the sentence.”
The following day, the judge told the old man: “Before receiving the sentence, you will have to go out and gather all the pieces of paper that you threw out yesterday.”
The old man said: “I can’t do that! The wind spread them and I didn’t know where to find them.”
The judge then replied: “The same way. Simple comments may destroy the honor of a man to such an extent that one is not able to fix it. If you can’t speak well of someone, rather don’t say anything. Let’s all be masters of our mouth, so that we won’t be slaves of our words.”