“It’s so rotten, gossip,” he said in February. “At the beginning, it seems to be something enjoyable and fun, like a piece of candy. But at the end, it fills the heart with bitterness and also poisons us.”His words resonated with my students and with me. We face the temptation to think less of others, to ever so slightly delight in their misgivings and add what we know; that is gossip! In high school gossip is all too real, but it doesn't end there. As we age and mature, we ought to make better decisions and grow in wisdom and kindness. The reality of gossip reminds us we fall short at every age.
As someone who is not immune from indulging in gossip—feeling the elusive power of having a good piece to share or leaning in to listen to it from others—I am happy report, we are not helpless. This need not be the way it is, or has to be. One solution? Practice reverse gossip.
The habit of saying good things, as opposed to bad things about people is known as reverse gossip. Gretchen Rubin, the host of one of my favorite podcasts, The Happiness Project extols the virtues of reverse gossip for it can help a person become more positive and eve have better energy! Like me, Misa Hopkins believes reverse gossip can be a spiritual discipline. On the blog Sacred Feminine Awakening she writes,
Since we tend to experience gossip as being a negative portrayal of others, I call this reverse gossip. When you engage in reverse gossip, you talk about the strengths and accomplishments of others. You discuss their achievements and what you like about them, along with personal interactions in which you witnessed thoughtful, courageous and loving traits.
Reverse gossip is a great way to bring a little light into your own day and that of others, because it just feels great to speak positively about others. The next time you are in the break room at work, sharing a ride with a co-worker, or on the phone with a colleague, you might want to give reverse gossip a try. You might particularly note that it has a dramatic effect when one person begins to complain about another, and you offer a compassionate and caring perspective about the person in question.
If you find yourself getting ready to gossip about someone else, may I suggest you pause, take a breath, and say a few words of reverse gossip first. Stay with the reverse gossip until you are having good feelings about this person. Then see if you really still have anything negative to say at all.The reason I write about this topic is because I have been the subject of (what I hope is) reverse gossip for the last month. In April, I accepted a position to teach and coach at St Francis High School. The Athletic Director told me they would be sending a press release about my appointment as the varsity girls' golf coach. Never in my life, have I received so many warm and wonderful messages, thanks to sharing this statement. The congratulations, blessings and words of encouragement have been remarkable. Thank you to everyone who has written and shared your words of support and joy for this next chapter.
The press release was so beautifully written, that practicing reverse gossip wasn't a challenge. And, the only cost associated with a press release is the time to write it and post to the school's website /sharing it through the appropriate channels. The benefit however is priceless. It gave friends and family insight into the work I will do and the team I will lead. I encourage all schools and communities to consider ways and means by which they can offer content for reverse gossip.
Unfortunately, our human nature is flawed. Yes, we are sinful. We lean in to negative news and offer our misgivings and grievances quite easily. I don't know how many times I have been told I will have a terrible commute. I had others had such strong opinions on a choice I have made. Though not gossip, I know it can serve as fuel for it. I can hear the squabble now. Instead, I am speaking to their sentiments with silliness. I have said, "Kobe and I have been in touch about using his helicopter. Stay tuned...."
And for what it's worth, that's not gossip, either...it's fantasy. But let's help each other become less negative and pessimistic and lift each other up through the spiritual practice of reverse gossip. No press release required.
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