Gossip and Twisted Emotional Responses

In her book Rooted in Love, Donna-Marie Cooper O’Boyle talks about being a “virtuous presence” in the workplace and community. In so doing, she talks about how gossip can interfere with our ability to be such a virtuous presence.

I was struck by O’Boyle’s quotation from Fr. Michael Gateley, who said, “Gossip and envy are especially effective at hardening hearts because of the way they twist our emotional responses to the suffering of others…Instead of feeling sorry for someone who suffers, gossip and envy get us to rejoice and delight over his suffering.”

Gatele’s words ring true to me. The problem with gossip is not only what it does to the other person – although the effects on the subject of gossip can themselves be quite serious. Gossip can lead to harm to the other’s reputation and cause them emotional pain.

But, as Gateley’s words suggest, the activity also does something to the person engaging in the gossip, twisting our emotional responses, hardening our hearts to the needs and sufferings of others.

It is a useful point to keep in mind because gossip is one of those things it is so easy to fall into doing. It can seem so light, but what starts as looking like harmless fun can grow into something that hardens us.