I love to gossip. If you think you don't, either I doubt you're being honest with yourself or you have few friends. I apologize for being so black and white, but I believe it's in the nature of human hearts to see gossip as a wonderful opportunity to step up on an available pedestal. We look for opportunities to establish ourselves, to prove ourselves, and to justify ourselves. Gossip is fun because it's a way to readjust the focus on our faults and for a moment, forget our shame. I wonder if the same people who are addicted to television, electronics, sex, etc., are also addicted to gossip? An addiction is established when the endorphins are released for a moment when we see a threat. Over time, this high becomes sought for, to the point that we seek it at the expense of seeing or dealing with our regrets and any dragons that may lie underneath our bed.
One of my favorite stories is Oscar Wilde's masterpiece, The Picture of Dorian Gray. The book is about a man named Dorian who makes a deal with the devil to stay young forever. Dorian never ages, but a portrait of him does. When Dorian does bad things, the bad things are immediately reflected in the portrait. Dorian does wicked things in the novel: he commits affairs, he murders, cheats; all the while, he's beautiful while the painting of him becomes more distorted. At the end of the book, he decides to look at the painting, knowing that although he has the face of an angel, the painting will resemble his character. He goes to where the covered painting is and uncovers it, and behold, he's a monster. At that moment, he can't live with himself anymore, so he slays the painting and in turn, kills himself. In the end, the picture becomes beautiful again while his human form transforms into the old and ugly man he really is.
I wonder if this is why we love gossip? We hide our own shameful pictures in the attic as we continue listening to stories of other people's sins. We flatter ourselves thinking their stories will redirect others and ourselves from the painting upstairs. This cycle keeps us from going to the attic, even locking the door at the top of the stairs. Gossip is an opportunity where we can forget by losing our sense of shame, even at the expense of stepping on another's reputation.
Yet gossip deceives us. Its tasty pleasures make us forget that one day we'll have to uncover that painting, either through broken pride or exposure. With his sword, Dorian sought to slay the monster he saw and in the process destroyed himself. If we continue with gossip, our sword will only get sharper and the desire to slay, much greater.
If you want to destroy gossip, then you'll need courage to unlock the attic door and look at your own painting. You may see a monster. You definitely won't see an angel. But you'll be reminded of who you are, what you've done, and you'll need grace at that moment. It'll be the most difficult thing you've ever done, but it's the only way to slay the painting without harming yourself. Why? Because at that moment, you'll need grace. Grace kills gossip without killing you.