In a little piece called Works and Days, Hesiod wrote,
“Follow all this; avoid men’s gossip, which
Is wicked. Gossip is not hard to raise;
Then, she is light, but burdensome to bear
And hard to unload, when you must carry her.
Gossip is hard to kill when many men
Support her; she is rather like a god.”
Hesiod was a Greek poet generally thought by scholars to have been active between 750 and 650 BC, around the same time as Homer. (Wikipedia)
I know, it’s kind of a creepy replica of the real man…Or, maybe he really was this creepy looking.
At any rate, I came across this quote in one of my Penguin Classics books on Hesiod and Theognis. (More on him later, or not.)
I find it fascinating that in all times people remain essentially the same. Gossip has been around since the beginning of time. Adam and Eve. They kind of gossiped after the Fall – Of course, Eve was standing right there when Adam blamed her, but the serpent was no where to be seen when Eve blamed it…Uh-oh…I feel the misogynists breathing down my neck…
Back to Hesiod before we get ourselves into more trouble.
Was Hesiod the recipient of gossip? Is this why he was going on about it?
Did he overhear a conversation between his brother, Perses, affectionately called Persy by those closest to him (I’m making that up), and a friend dissing one of their classmates?
Gossip is something that hurts the speaker. Hesiod says it is “burdensome” and “hard to unload”. Is that because you lose your reputation when you gossip? I have found myself in the hearing of gossip and reluctantly admit that I have been a participant in gossip. Who hasn’t really?
It definitely made me feel uncomfortable. But, it also made me lose trust for the person sharing the juicy bit of gossip. If this person is talking about so-and-so, then what’s stopping him or her from talking about me behind my back? The answer is “Nothing”.
I think we gossip because of our insecurities.
We gossip because it makes us feel better about ourselves and our own lives. We may have problems, but we sure as heck don’t have so-and-so’s problems.
The question is, “When is it gossip and when is it genuine concern for someone?”
We have to test our hearts and be brutally honest with ourselves and our motivation.
It gets worse though. Hesiod boldly says that gossip is a “god”.
We worship it. It feeds something in us – some innermost desire. The thought is actually quite startling and unsettling.
I think we have to start asking ourselves some questions when we find ourselves in the midst of gossip:
Why am I talking about this person?
Is anything good coming out of this conversation?
How am I feeling right now, in this moment, talking about this situation/person?
Would I want someone talking about this situation if it was about me?
And, it’s okay to step away from conversations where you feel uncomfortable. It’s hard to do. I know because I have stayed in those types of situations when my head was telling me to get out of there!
To be blunt, trying to avoid gossip will be like trying to avoid doggy-doo-doo in a Parisian street. (I was debating putting a photo here, but my common sense got the better of me – You’re welcome!)
If you have any tips or suggestions of how you handle gossip, please let us know!