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Gossip And Its Effects Essay, Research Paper

In Sissela Bok?s Secrets, she quotes the American Heritage Dictionary for the definition of gossip. It is defined as, ?trifling, often groundless rumor, usually of a personal, sensational, or intimate nature; idle talk.? Gossip?s very nature brings along danger. People risk friendships, jobs, and other important parts of life everyday to engage in it. Where does an innocent conversation about current events cross over to gossip? Why participate in gossip? What makes it so dangerous?

According to Bok, ?The seventeenth- and eighteenth-century New England Puritans illustrate in their writings the intensity with which human lives may be raked over, both in soul searching and in talking about the lives of others.? Gossip entails ?talking about the lives of others.? Telling a friend about another friend in Italy on a vacation does not fall under the category of gossip. Talking becomes gossip when the conversation takes a turn to the dark side. When evil intentions carry the conversation, when a giddy tone is in the dialogue telling of the friend?s habits with respect to relationships, when all the dirty stories are told?then gossip has been committed. There are a few more restrictions on what true gossip is. Bok writes, ?Gossip?is not only about persons but about persons absent, isolated, or excluded.? It is never ?about the participants themselves.? Thus, to qualify, gossip must be in secret of this sort.

Gossip is not what paved the road to heaven. Why then, do we do it? Answering a question with another may be more confusing, but it brings forth a good point. Why do people break the law? Gossip?s malevolence is clear and plain, yet people still participate. We know it is perilous to friendships, jobs, maybe even life itself in extreme cases. Bok gives many explanations. In one of them, she states, ?Part of the universal attraction of gossip is the occasion it affords for comparing oneself with others, usually silently, while seeming to be speaking strictly about someone else.? People enjoy comparing themselves to others. Speaking badly of another person gives great satisfaction because it gives us a feeling of superiority.

Who can be hurt by a little gossip? Normally, gossip never gets back to the person it is about. When it does, feelings are hurt. If gossip does not get back to its subject, this does not make it acceptable. Reputations can be ruined, friendships can be broken so the subject is blindsided and knows not why life is falling apart.

Sissela Bok calls gossip that causes damage ?Reprehensible Gossip.? As Bok notes, not all gossip is truly reprehensible. On the other hand, its harm can be very severe. Bok quotes the Babylonian Talmud saying, ?Why is gossip a three-pronged tongue? Because it destroys three people: the person who says it, the person who listens to it, and the person about whom it is told.? Gossip can be like a disease. Is gossip really this bad all the time?

Bok tones down Talmud?s possibly outdated theory, which he stated hundreds of years ago. She notes that three specific types of gossip are almost guaranteed to hurt or otherwise damage: ?gossip in breach of confidence, gossip the speaker knows to be false, and unduly invasive gossip.?

The first is self-explanatory. This is a common form of gossip, which further defines gossip. When something is told that one has promised to keep secret, trust is lost. This is why gossip that makes a ?breach of confidence? is reprehensible. This ties in with the doctor-patient privilege we share in the medical field. Priests and counselors also take part in this promise. Disclosing this information is wrong in almost every situation except when it is to save one?s life, such as in the case of someone planning to commit suicide.

The second form of gossip that may cause damage is when one gossips stating something as true when he or she knows it to be false. This ?gossip that the speaker knows to be false? is also hurtful because it, too, breaks trust. Not only is trust broken with the subject of the gossip, trust is broken with the person to whom gossip is being told. One loses credibility with the person he or she is preaching the gossip when that gossip is found to be a lie. Bok argues that this form of gossip may be excusable when it is used because it is ?the only way to deflect someone bent on violence.? Bare in mind, these are extremely unusual cases. More often than not, one engages in reprehensible gossip for the purpose of enhancing his or her social life.

Much of the time, gossip is forwarded from one to another and it is false, but the people telling the gossip do not know it. This is not the fault of the people telling the gossip. Therefore, they are not to blame. This issue is a good reason to avoid gossip at all costs.

Bok identifies the third and final form of reprehensible gossip as ?unduly invasive gossip.? This description of gossip is to describe gossip that simply goes too far. When the personal lives of others are invaded upon and all normal restrictions of privacy are put aside, we go too far. This final rule describing reprehensible gossip embodies many types of gossip. Almost all gossip goes to far. Therefore, only a small percentage of the gossip used is truly harmless.

In closing, gossip should be avoided whenever possible. Avoiding the temptation to gossip will no doubt strengthen relationships and build a strong character as an honest, considerate person.

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