With our words, we can change the way others look at someone, build a reputation or tear one down. Our stories can shape the truth about a person, a place or an institution.
Gossip can be true, false or (most often) a mixture of the two. Gossip has the effect of making the gossiper, the one with the information, feel powerful and experience a sense of control over others.
One of my favorite interpretations of the commandment “You shall not kill” is one that expands the law to not only prohibit taking a life but to prohibit all the little “murders” we commit each day. When we mutter under our breath about a co-worker or speculate about a friend’s relationship with her spouse, we injure their reputations. We don’t physically “kill” them, but we do kill their character.
This message is adapted from “Rumor has it” written by Amber Leberman that first appeared in the July 2006 issue of Café magazine.