How gossip can go dangerously out of control

Suppose we pushed a small snowball down a hill just for fun. It rolls down out of our sight and we forget about it. But it rolls into a person who was standing near the edge of a ditch, pushing them into it and injuring them severely. 

Gossip can have a similarly dangerous snowballing effect. Suppose we don’t like someone and we hear some juicy tidbit about something negative they have supposedly done. We gossip about it, adding a bit of spice to it. Those who hear it may similarly exaggerate and sensationalize till that tidbit becomes far more scandalous and shameful than what we had heard. 

Suppose the person about whom we gossiped hears this ultra-distorted version at a moment when they are emotionally vulnerable because of various things going on in their life, things we know nothing about. Hearing this version might just push them over the edge; they may sink into depression, trauma or even suicide. If they actually ended their life, the guilt we would have to live with would be unbearable.

Such unintended blowing up of gossip is not improbable amid today’s social media where things that titillate people’s lower nature can get shared extensively. Scarily enough, in recent years, suicides among teens, especially teen girls, have increased substantially, in proportion to their usage of social media. 

Do we want to risk hurting anyone that much just for the tiny pleasure of gossiping?

If we apply the Bhagavad-gita’s guideline to cultivate aversion to fault-finding (16.02), that can stop us from pushing that potentially lethal snowball. 

One-sentence summary:

Gossiping about someone is like pushing a snowball at them — we don’t know and can’t control how much it may hurt them.

Think it over:

  • How may small gossip get disproportionately distorted?
  • How may gossiping about someone hurt them far more than what we imagined?
  • Is there someone you dislike and are inclined to gossip about? Consciously contemplate and note three positive things about them, thereby decreasing that inclination to gossip. 

***

16.02: Nonviolence; truthfulness; freedom from anger; renunciation; tranquillity; aversion to faultfinding; compassion for all living entities; freedom from covetousness; gentleness; modesty; steady determination; … – these transcendental qualities belong to godly men endowed with divine nature.

Author: Chaitanya Charan

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5 Comments

  1. Wonderful passage. Words to live by. Thank you prabhu

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    • Happy to be of service.

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  2. Tongue speaks at the cost of head

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