Am I being too scrupulous about the sin of gossip?

I was sleeping in on my day off. I get a phone call from my friend Briana who stated that her cousin was driving my friend’s(Dana) car and the car died. Dana was not aware because she did not have a cell phone and did not know that her car died. Briana’s cousin was stuck at the bus stop. Briana knows that Dana and I are good friends. I had made plans with my mother in law to go shopping and did not want to cancel because we rarely get together. I told the Briana that I would bee busy because I was running out and about. When I hung up the phone I felt guilty because I was leaving the cousin stranded and Dana did not know about her car. To keep the plans with my mother in law. I advised Briana to let her cousin know that I will give him the car so my friend Dana would not be without as long as he dropped me off to my MIL and then drop the car off to Dana. My husband flipped out on me because he said I barely knew the cousin. So I go with my MIL and she drops me off. I then called Dana and told her ,because she has 3 kids that go to 3 different schools, to pick them using my car and come get me later. She picks me up later and gives me $5 toward gas. I see that the needle is above the E. I go to the gas station to fill up the gas and she says to me “You can’t drop us off first, my son is sick?” I responded this is not a joy ride. My gas is low. I felt that she was ungrateful and I was disappointed and hurt. I mention it to another friend at work name Elaine because I was disappointed and I wanted to make sure I was not overreacting. (Is this gossip?) I got over it and said maybe she was having a bad day. Then 2 days later I went over to her house. She said that she was going to her lover’s house (Dana feels it is ok because her lover is only down the street) and her daugher who is the oldest and is 11 said in front of me and her “Mommy usually stays the whole night or comes in really late” I was upset and did not say anythng in front of the daughter. I woke up this morning upset at the situation and told my husband. (Was this gossip?). Do I need to confess any of the above situation?

I mention it to another friend at work name Elaine because I was disappointed and I wanted to make sure I was not overreacting. (Is this gossip?) I got over it and said maybe she was having a bad day. Then 2 days later I went over to her house. She said that she was going to her lover’s house (Dana feels it is ok because her lover is only down the street) and her daugher who is the oldest and is 11 said in front of me and her “Mommy usually stays the whole night or comes in really late” I was upset and did not say anythng in front of the daughter. I woke up this morning upset at the situation and told my husband. (Was this gossip?). Do I need to confess any of the above situation?


So when you talked to Elaine, you told her what happened and wanted to know if you over reacted by feeling hurt by your friend’s action. Is that right? I think that if that was your intention and actually the way you presented it, that’s not really a sin. Not every time you talk about somebody is actually gossip. I would say that if you didn’t mention names and Elaine doesn’t know the people anyway, it’s not really gossip. Maybe it’s technically gossip, and if it makes you feel better you should confess it, but I wouldn’t consider that a sin.

Now about the person who leaves her kids home to spend the night with her boyfriend, you really have to examine your motives. If you talked to your husband about it because you thought you needed to take some action and wanted his advice, I wouldn’t call that gossip. But if you told him because it was a piece of juicy news, that’s gossip. Your friend is totally wrong to leave children alone late or overnight…she shouldn’t leave an 11 year old in charge for more than a couple minutes. I would consider calling child services if this is actually happening. You also have to remember that this isn’t first hand knowledge, but you’re getting this information from a kid, so you may need to take it with a grain of salt.

When is talking about someone else gossip? This is where I think I am having the difficulty in discerning.

I don’t really have a definition of gossip, but I think that if your intentions are mean spirited, that’s gossip. I might call to tell you someone is sick and needs your prayers and maybe a casserole for the family dinner. That’s not gossip. If I call to tell you the I saw Suzie having lunch with a man and it wasn’t her husband, that’s definitiely gossip. You could have a valid reason to talk about someone.

The thing with the kids, for instance. That would really upset me, because an 11 year old should not be responsible for her siblings for long periods of time, especially not over night. Maybe you told your husband because it was upsetting you, or maybe you wanted to see if he thought you should do something about it. If the reason you talked to him was to say, “Isn’t she just awful!” that would be gossip.

Thank you for your replies. I will go to confession just in case.

Always a good plan.

When in doubt, go to confession! :thumbsup:

However, in my humble opinion as to when gossip is gossip, you need to examine three things when you are abour to repeat information:

  1. Can this be potentially harmful/embarassing to the other person? Obviously, talking about your friend winning an award isn’t gossip. At least, not bad and I am sure they wouldn’t mind the information being passed on. :wink:

  2. Is there any reason I can think of that this person would want this to be confidential? A good example of this is when you have a friend who is seeing someone new. Until they give the “all clear” and make their relationship public, it’s probably best to keep it on the DL.

  3. Is the reason I am repeating this to put them down, make them look bad, or to make myself look better at their expense? This is most important when you are mad at someone. There is a big difference between venting and gossiping.

When going through this list you have to also weight them against who you are talking to. For example, you may be best friends with your supervisor outside work, but to vent to them about a coworker (even outside work!) may be inappropriate.

These aren’t any hard-and-fast rules or anything, they are just the quick line of things I run through before repeating information someone has told me. And if you’re in a hurry (generally before venting!) just ask yourself if you would want someone talking about you in the same way you are about to talk to another. Thinking about this also helps me (sometimes :frowning: ) from being too harsh on another person when I am venting. :slight_smile:

In both situations, it sounds like you were asking for advice (I’m not sure if you gave as much detail there as here). I think if you were out to spread rumors (false or otherwise), or defame the person, then that would be gossip.

In the first one, if you said to your co-worker, “I’m so upset! I felt my friend was ungrateful to me when she said XYZ when I had to do ABC. Am I over-reacting?”, I think that would be fine, without giving names. You don’t know if that person knows your friend, or knows someone who knows your friend. Sometimes, too much information, even well meaning, could cause someone else to gossip (i.e., if they didn’t like that person). They could start saying, “Hey, did you hear what so-and-so said to my friend? …”.

Sins are detraction and calumny. The word gossip is not in the catechism anywhere.

Search the CCC for these words and lean what they are, and thus what is sinful.

scborromeo.org/ccc.htm

2477 Respect for the reputation of persons forbids every attitude and word likely to cause them unjust injury.278 He becomes guilty:

  • of rash judgment who, even tacitly, assumes as true, without sufficient foundation, the moral fault of a neighbor;

  • of *detraction *who, without objectively valid reason, discloses another’s faults and failings to persons who did not know them;279

  • of *calumny *who, by remarks contrary to the truth, harms the reputation of others and gives occasion for false judgments concerning them.

2478 To avoid rash judgment, everyone should be careful to interpret insofar as possible his neighbor’s thoughts, words, and deeds in a favorable way:

Every good Christian ought to be more ready to give a favorable interpretation to another’s statement than to condemn it. But if he cannot do so, let him ask how the other understands it. And if the latter understands it badly, let the former correct him with love. If that does not suffice, let the Christian try all suitable ways to bring the other to a correct interpretation so that he may be saved.280

2479 Detraction and calumny destroy the reputation and honor of one’s neighbor. Honor is the social witness given to human dignity, and everyone enjoys a natural right to the honor of his name and reputation and to respect. Thus, detraction and calumny offend against the virtues of justice and charity.

2480 Every word or attitude is forbidden which by flattery, adulation, or complaisance encourages and confirms another in malicious acts and perverse conduct. Adulation is a grave fault if it makes one an accomplice in another’s vices or grave sins. Neither the desire to be of service nor friendship justifies duplicitous speech. Adulation is a venial sin when it only seeks to be agreeable, to avoid evil, to meet a need, or to obtain legitimate advantages.
2481 *Boasting *or bragging is an offense against truth. So is *irony *aimed at disparaging someone by maliciously caricaturing some aspect of his behavior.

Talking over your problems with others is not gossip. Talking about others to third parties in a way that would unnecessarily degrade their reputations is gossip.

This does not mean you are required to take the whole world onto your shoulders in order to protect the ridiculous pretense that no one you know has any faults or that you ever have any issues with anyone else. You can talk about issues with others, as long as you choose people who can be trusted to have discretion with the information. (This can be a tall order, I know…but I think your husband is a safe bet.)

My concern for you is that you may be a caretaker. That is, you may think that people not directly under your care are your responsibility or that you are under some compulsion to give in to every request people make of you. This is a recipe for resentment and frustration.

Your friends and relatives need to know that they can ask you for help without heaping guilt on you if complying is going to push you beyond your own legitimate and necessary right to set your own boundaries. Likewise, you need (and I do mean need) to be able to set boundaries between yourself and others in places that have everything to do with what charity demands you give others and yourself* and nothing to do with the guilt trips laid on you by others or yourself. *(“Love thy neighbor as thyself” implies that the demands of charity apply to you, too. You are commanded by God to love yourself!)

What made your friend Brianna’s cousin’s plight your business? Just that Brianna called you? What made Dana’s arrangement with Brianna’s cousin or that pair’s failure to make arrangements for such a possibility a problem for you to clean up? On the other hand, did you ever think that your mother-in-law had a reason to believe you’d make your plans with her a priority? Do know that plans you make with yourself are also legitimate commitments that may be (and except in emergency ought to be) honored without excuse? Just because you will enjoy one activity more than another does not make one less important to others than another.

Let me repeat: Planning and following up on enjoyable activities for yourself, especially when they reinforce bonds of family or friendship, but even when they just keep you recharged, is a morally legitimate priority. It is legitimate to honor those commitments as fully as if they were less enjoyable ones. You need no excuse for that. More often, you need a substantial and important excuse to fail to make legitimate self-care a high priority.

Do you see my point? None of this was your duty to clean up. If you could help, if you and your mother-in-law wanted to and could honor your mutual commitment at another time, fine. But keep in mind that guilt feelings have exactly one function: to prompt you to ask yourself if you have crossed a moral boundary. It is like a smoke alarm. Once you have ascertained that there is not a fire going that is yours to put out…TURN OFF THE ALARM. Otherwise, those alarms will make you crazy!

Putting a non-emergency problem that is not yours ahead of a commitment that is yours is more problematic than you may realize. The habit of rescuing when you are not literally in the position of a firefighter–that is, when the rescue and the extent of it truly is your responsibility–is a good one to lose. It seems to help relationships, but it actually damages them. You have to let others in your life be adults. Even firefighters don’t try to fix everyone else’s problems. They put out the fires, then they roll up their firehoses, go back to the station, wash their trucks, and mind their own business. They don’t chase speeders or inspect restaurants. My point is that the world would be worse if they did. We’re better off because they know their jobs, do their jobs, and let others do theirs.

As for the friend who asked if you could take her home sooner rather than later…it did no harm for her to ask! Why resent that, unless you are carrying around the unreasonable idea that you need an excuse to refuse her every request? You don’t. You can just say “no”. Trust me: if you are free to say “no”, it is safer and she is freer to ask in the first place. You can just say, “I would like to help you, but this stop has to come first, or we might run out of gas”, and no resentment for anyone. You might even say, “No, that isn’t going to work for me”, with no reason or excuse given. She asked, one legitimate answer was “no”, and as for what she’ll do with that, that’s her issue to deal with. If she were to try to run a guilt trip on you about it, you’d be doing everyone a favor if you ignored it. Your friends and family may not initially like that you are not everyone’s Ms.-Fix-It anymore, but there will be more peace surrounding you in the long run if you lose that reputation.

Try letting other people be responsible for themselves. Try giving yourself permission to say “no” without offering or needing any excuse for yourself. It is better for everyone!

That is a possibility. You’re an adult, though. You decide. :wink:

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