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Summary: Gossip and disparaging talk is a social cancer that God dispises. This article discusses the insidious and all-to-present dangers of this common dialogue and how to rid it from your life and surroundings.

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Exposing Malignant “shop-talk” Culture

“Talking shop” applies to everyone even if one doesn’t work at a shop. I’m not blameless either. The camaraderie of discussing common situations may be helpful or entertaining, but how often and how long do conversations really stay benign? I venture to say rarely and not for long.

Example:

Teacher’s Lounge-

Pearl: Hi Molly, how’s your day going?

Molly: Not so great. Jordan Peters was a real monster this morning!

Pearl: Oh, I know. His brother’s just as bad.

Molly: Yeah, well, wait until you get Jordan next year!

Pearl: I probably shouldn’t say this, but their mom’s seeing someone and she just doesn’t have time for them. They want attention and they don’t care how they get it.

Molly: Well, she actually told me the problem is that he needs more attention from me in class.

Pearl: They like to blame us for everything, but if there’s a problem it usually starts at home.

Molly: I know; it’s terrible.

Does it sound ordinary or awful to you? True be told-- it is both. Scenarios happen like this every moment of everyday. Quickly we ally to position good guys and bad guys, bolster our standing, or set the record straight. Parents huddle and complain about their offspring, office people grouse about co-workers, policemen disparage offenders, teachers bemoan students and irritating parents, hairdressers criticize picky clients, waitresses denounce bad tippers and the list extends to every sub-group. It only takes two willing people to turn a lunch room into a snake pit.

It’s time to understand how deadly this conduct really is. It is truly a malignant behavior that poisons much more than we think it does. The first response Pearl could have given Molly could have just as well been, “I’d like second helping of cancer please, Molly. Tell me more!” We may all fall prey to these noxious actions, but woe it will be to us!

I’d like to tell you why:

1) The “us verses them” mentality of any group is always war-like in spirit. It’s easy to buddy-up and gain alliances for our benefit. But, add only a hint of cynicism and you’ve instantly created rivals.

As mature, responsible human beings we must insist our lives exist in cooperation with all to every degree possible. In reality it suits everyone best. When we ally with a few for connection and leave out any others battle lines are drawn. The camaraderie we believe we’ve gained is in fact counterfeit because it is based on self-interest not authentic compatibility.

We must always build our alliances across all boundaries. The truth is we are not at war with each other. It may seem like we are at times. Often we may act like it. It becomes true when the notion of “us verses them” is propagated, believed and most importantly acted on. It has to be cut out like a cancerous tumor. How much better our lives would be if we behaved peaceably.

2) Negative, disparaging talk reveals the poorest stuff of our own character. A disapproving mentality exposes core level insecurity among its proponents. We need to think about our legacy before we become cohorts with willing disparagers. Do we want to have the reputation of being “unsafe”? Who trusts a nasty informant? Not me. When we side with or even tolerate this conduct we have lost something we may not easily find again, our virtue. The saying goes, “Those who gossip to you will gossip of you.” As we partake in a culture of denunciation we come to it at a heavy price. We mortgage our integrity.


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Clarence Clough

commented on Feb 28, 2007

Thank you for these instructive words.

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