Honesty best policy Gossip can close the heart of a community
Francis's plea to be discreet
It has been said that a gossip is someone who would never tell a lie if the truth could do more damage.
Speaking in St Peter's Square recently, Pope Francis said that sometimes gossip is worse even than the coronavirus.
"When we see a mistake, a defect, a slip, in that brother or sister, usually the first thing we do is go and tell others about it, to spread the bad news. And gossip closes the heart of the community...
"The great talker is the devil, who always goes about saying the bad things of others, because he is the liar who tries to… alienate his brothers and sisters, not to make community. Please, brothers and sisters, make an effort not to gossip. Gossiping is a worse pest than Covid! Let's make an effort: no gossip."
His address was based on the gospel, Matthew 18:15-20, where Jesus talks about fraternal correction.
Jesus suggests the steps we should make to correct the person who makes a mistake without fracturing the community.
Jesus says that first of all: "Warn them quietly and in private."
In other words, said Pope Francis, the teaching of Jesus is not to publicise the sins of others. "It is a question of going to the person with discretion, not to judge them but to help them realise what they have done. Perhaps at first we get angry, but then we thank them, because it is a gesture of help, of recovery."
"If this does not work, Jesus then advises we make an attempt to resolve the issue with two or three witnesses, not to accuse and judge, but to help."
However, if even the love of two or three brothers is insufficient, the next step is to "tell the community".
He said: "If things don't go right, silence and prayer for the brother or sister who are wrong, but never gossip."
It's sound advice - but rare these days when hateful back-biting sells more papers and creates bigger profiles on social media.
If you want to be miserable, here's how. These attitudes will take the joy out of your life and destroy anyone you happen to meet along the way.
TEN WAYS YOU CAN BE MISERABLE
1 Feel sorry for yourself. It's a perfect place to start. Self pity is guaranteed to make you miserable.
2 Make a list of things that could go wrong but probably won't. Next start worrying about them. It's amazing what can go wrong when you start looking for trouble.
3 If you want to make your own and others lives' miserable you can do it with one single word. Complain. Find fault with everything. Eventually you will become an expert complainer. And when you do you will find flaws everywhere. Never mind the good points, just concentrate on the negative.
4 Insist on bullying other people so that you can always have your own way. Pretend to listen but don't. Don't cooperate. Don't compromise. Don't give in. And when things get tough, quit. You'll have enough misery to last you a lifetime.
5 Gossip and ridicule. Highlight other people's weaknesses. Tell them to their face how bad they are. Better still talk behind their backs. You'll spread misery like the contagious disease it is.
6 Make a mountain out of a mole hill. Over-react to everything. Emphasise what is worst about your workplace, your surroundings, your family, yourself and in the people you have to deal with. Accentuate the negative. Speak in an angry voice. You'll spread so much misery.
7 Be selfish and self-centred. Why be concerned about others? If asked to help say no. Even if not asked, develop the kind of face that says don't come near me. Let someone else do it. Misery will be your constant companion.
8 Don't entertain compassion, forgiveness or understanding. You have much more important things to do. Open the door to such positive thoughts and your misery could disappear.
9 Don't mess with misery. If you do you could begin to laugh at yourself. And if you do that your misery will crumble. Be warned.
10 Become a narcissistic, cowardly, keyboard warrior.
LET THE LIGHT IN YOUR BOWL SHINE
In Tales from the Night Rainbow, Pali Jae Lee and Koko Willis include this parable from Hawaiian Folklore: Each child is believed to be born with a bowl of perfect light.
If the child treats the light with utmost respect, the boy/girl will swim with the sharks and fly with the birds, and know and understand all things.
But if the child on the journey of life becomes envious, jealous or angry, each of these negative emotions becomes like a stone that the child places in their bowl of light.
As a result some light leaves the bowl because the stone and the light cannot hold the same space. If the young person continues on this path the child becomes heavy like a stone; a stone cannot move or grow.
But if at any time the young person realises what they are doing and grows disillusioned being a stone, then all they have to do is to turn the bowl upside down; the stones will fall away and the bowl will once again be filled with light.
In life, all of us become overwhelmed by the 'stones' of grief, disappointment, failure, despair and hopelessness. If we can decide to empty the stones out, God's grace will fill us with light and hope.
Sometimes, too, we are called upon to offer understanding, compassion and generosity to others to enable them to empty their 'bowls'.
CHILDREN SEE WHAT IS TRULY IMPORTANT
I love the Indian spiritual writer Anthony de Mello's stories. In one of them he speaks of a mother and four-year-old child driving along in suburbia. A sports car came alongside them. At the lights, the mother was shocked to see the passenger in that car stand up and wave to everyone. She was stark naked.
The mother frantically thought of what she would say to her four-year-old. She needn't have worried. The little boy said: "Mummy that's a very bad woman in that car. She's not wearing her seat belt."
Children have a disturbing habit of getting to the heart of the matter.
In another story he talks about a man who was infatuated with a certain woman. He tried for years to begin a relationship and to invite her to meet him again.
This went on for years. Then one day she said she would meet him. "Meet me under the palm tree on the shore as the sun rises," she wrote.
He was there exactly as she asked. When they met across a table the man immediately took a large package from his briefcase. It contained all the love letters he had secretly written over the years expressing the pain he felt and the love and union he wanted. He began to read the letters one by one. On and on he went telling her of his heartbreak and his desires...
Eventually she could take no more. "What kind of fool are you?" she snapped. "For years you have wanted us to meet. Here I am in front of you now and you are lost in your stupid letters."
De Mello says there are times when we have to stop thinking, reading and reflecting about God and the Spiritual Life and simply enter into a genuine appreciation of the presence of God who is ready to begin a whole new affair with us.