To Say Or Not To Say!

“Gossip is just a tool to distract people who have nothing better to do from feeling jealous of those few of us still remaining with noble hearts”—Anna Godbersen

To Say Or Not To Say!

“Be impeccable with your word. Speak with integrity. Say only what you mean. Avoid using the word to speak against yourself or to gossip about others. Use the power of your word in the direction of truth and love”Don Miguel Ruiz

Henry Thomas Buckle said: “Great minds discuss ideas. Average minds discuss events. Small minds discuss people.” Gossip is something we love to indulge in, since it essentially relates to other people, whosoever they maybe. The content of this small talk is not in the nature of accolades, but targeted at undermining others or spreading rumours. Simply put, chit-chat is a past-time for the idle who have nothing to talk about except what others are doing. Either they have nothing constructive to do, lack sufficient knowledge about different things, have limited vision of life, are prone to living at animal level catering to their basic instincts (eat, drink, sleep etc.) or those who are rolling in wealth but suffering from insecurity.

Gossip is not restricted to a particular group but is something that is commonly shared by all types of social classes. Actor Blake Lively says: “People gossip. People are insecure, so they talk about other people so that they won’t be talked about. They point out flaws in other people to make them feel good about themselves.” Another view as propounded by Frank A. Clark is: “Gossip needn’t be false to be evil—there’s a lot of truth that shouldn’t be passed around.”

As an example, if Mr. X, a happily married gentleman is found frequently visiting a home where a couple of unmarried women live and is espied by a friend or foe, within no time, the news that X is involved in a secret extramarital affair, is sure to spread like wildfire. This is done without confirming facts and without even confronting the person whose reputation and perhaps marriage are at stake. A little probe could have revealed that he was helping an old invalid widow with her business accounts and had nothing to do with her daughters who were independently earning their own livelihood.

Similarly, if a girl with beauty and brains manages to break the glass ceiling in a corporate set-up, her achievement will be generally attributed to her good looks rather than her intelligence. Her counterparts are inclined to view her with suspicion covering their own short-comings by targeting her nature. In the cafeteria, meeting rooms, office enclosures or private parties, behind her back, noxious whispers to this effect are bound to be heard. This is gossip, enough to perturb someone’s life and character, enough to reduce someone to absolute misery and definitely enough to send wrong signals to the world. Richard Steele said: “Fire and swords are slow engines of destruction, compared to the tongue of Gossip”.

Now, the flip side of this scenario is that suppose there is a person, X who has actually witnessed a woman taking advantage of her personal endowments and achieved a desired result. In this case, there are two clear options before X. One, to simply look the other way and two, raise such a furor that could in the process, destroy not just the two involved but many who are within the earshot. Such a scenario can lead to a wholesale damage, avoidable if hushed up. Besides, airing evil can influence those who were earlier probably not aware about this path. The choice between the two, lies of course with X, depending on X’s upbringing and understanding as a conscious human being.

Yet another example is that of Y stabbing a person with a knife and witnessed by X. Since this is a violation of law which cannot be ignored and where the culprit needs to be brought to the court of justice, X should raise an alarm and alert everyone around. In the event of absolute evidence there can be no doubt that Y would be punished. Suppose if X saw Y taking out the knife from the dead person’s body there cannot be clarity whether Y is the real felon in which situation the case would have to be proved beyond any reasonable doubt before Y can be incarcerated.

Again, there is a vast difference between a fault and a sin. Human beings are not perfect in their composition. They are made up of a number of virtues and vices but over time the wise among them manage their inert characteristics to appear balanced and agreeable. During this process, they may have to face certain difficulties and that is where people around can play their part by guiding them to recognize their strengths and flaws. Obviously, in doing so, some of the faults would have to be overlooked allowing them an opportunity to grow. However, publicizing these drawbacks can cause an opposite reaction whereby they can harden up into obstinacy thus destroying their chances of becoming good humans.

In order to convince the human to cater to others’ needs, most of the world’s known religions mention rewards for good deeds and punishments for the bad ones, popularly understood as karma. Then there is also, in Islam as in other religions for example, the concept of hereafter and eternal life. So an unrewarded noble act would be paid off, while an undetected crime here is said to be punishable in the next world. Moreover, it is assured that if X overlooks an inadvertent fault or sin of Y, to allow the committer a second chance, then X would be saved a lot of embarrassment for his own faults in the hereafter. In other words, people are encouraged to be considerate to their brethren’s flaws and needs and to assist each other to make lives better. It must be remembered that sin is not necessarily a crime. Children are told that telling a lie is a sin but if someone does lie, unless it is perjury, law enforcers will hardly budge.

“Gossip is just a tool to distract people who have nothing better to do from feeling jealous of those few of us still remaining with noble hearts”—Anna Godbersen

The writer is a lawyer and author, and an Adjunct Faculty at the Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS), member Advisory Board and Senior Visiting Fellow of Pakistan Institute of Development Economics (PIDE)