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Gossip and Gratitude

In the movie Doubt, Philip Seymour Hoffman's character, a priest in a catholic church, gives a sermon on gossip, telling a story to illustrate his point. 

"A woman was gossiping with a friend about a man she hardly knew - I know none of you have ever done this - that night she had a dream. A great hand appeared over her and pointed down at her. She was immediately seized with an overwhelming sense of guilt. The next day she went to confession. She got the old parish priest, Father O'Rourke, and she told him the whole thing.

'Is gossiping a sin?' she asked the old man. 'Was that the hand of God Almighty pointing a finger at me? Should I be asking your absolution? Father, tell me, have I done something wrong?'

(Irish Brogue)
'Yes!' Father O'Rourke answered her. 'Yes, you ignorant, badly brought up female! You have borne false witness against your neighbor, you have played fast and loose with his reputation, and you should be heartily ashamed!'

So the woman said she was sorry and asked for forgiveness.

'Not so fast!' says O'Rourke. 'I want you to go home, take a pillow up on your roof, cut it open with a knife, and return here to me!'

So the woman went home, took a pillow off her bed, a knife from the drawer, went up the fire escape to the roof, and stabbed the pillow. Then she went back to the old parish priest as instructed.

'Did you gut the pillow with the knife?' he says.

'Yes Father.'

'And what was the result?'

'Feathers,' she said.

'Feathers?' he repeated.

'Feathers everywhere, Father!'

'Now I want you to go back and gather up every last feather that flew out on the wind!'

'Well,' she said, 'it can't be done. I don't know where they went. The wind took them all over.'

'And that,' said Father O'Rourke, 'is GOSSIP!'

In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, Amen."

I really heard this story. Gossip is one of those things I take part in but don't enjoy. It is alluring, an offer of camaraderie, a secret no one knows but you and one other. But not really. It doesn't feel good. It doesn't leave me feeling uplifted or inspired. But it's hard to stop. It's hard to cut off the person telling you the gossip for fear of hurting their feelings, and it's also hard to stop instigating the gossip because it has become somewhat of a habit. How does one break a bad habit? Cold turkey? 

This is where I begin to be conscious about my instigating gossip. When I write it down, I remember better. I better remember. 

Here is something: in January I started using a little ipod application on gratitude. Every day I would write down five or more things that I was grateful for. Gratitude seemed to inspire more gratitude, and I was surprised at all I was grateful for but didn't even realize it. This went on for about two weeks and then dissipated. During this time, I felt light and I didn't engage in gossip. Focusing on what I was grateful for left no room for petty things. 

So today, I am grateful for -
-my son's patience at 2 1/2. I have a lot to learn from this little guy.
-a lovely conversation I had with my husband last night as our son slept during our last hour of traveling home.
-being home again.

File this one under spirituality and healthy living. Really, what else could it be?


Jldnrats said...

I never (at least I don't think so!) gossip about friends and family. But at work, I'm always spewing about some patient, or occasionally, a colleague or two. For the former, I like to think of it as psychotherapy. I really need to talk and share sometimes, and Joe isn't usually interested. Besides, not being in health care he doesn't really understand why something is just crazy or heinous. If I don't, I feel like things are all bottled up and I'm tense when I get home. It's not like it's daily or even weekly, and it's not personal because usually I will never see the person again. Or if a clerk is unusually rude -- like at total beauty when that bitch followed me the whole time thinking I was going to steal shit. Is that gossipy? I don't know....

Anonymous said...

Genny, this is a great post. The story illustrates gossip to a "T"! I have been trying to be more mindful of gossip and it has helped. I think your correlation between keeping a gratitude list and less gossip is brilliant. Hope your transition back home is going well. -Jodi