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The Leprous Plague of Gossip


“Sometimes I think the human animal doesn't really need food or water to survive, only gossip.” ~ Steve Toltz

In today’s First Reading (Numbers 12:1-13), we revisit an Old Testament tale which highlights, or perhaps I should saylowlights, the corrosive consequences of both gossip and pride, two foibles displayed by Miriam and Aaron towards both Moses and God.

“Is it through Moses alone that the Lord speaks?” they complained aloud. “Does he not speak through us also?” That Miriam and Aaron would feel slighted, going so far as to question the Lord’s divine plan, raised the ire of God. He in turn punished them by afflicting Miriam with leprosy.

Gossip mixed with misguided and selfish pride, the likes of which was on display in this passage, is nothing short of an invasive social cancer, one that remains every bit as prevalent today than ever. That leprosy would be Miriam’s fate is quite fitting in that it underscores gossip’s evisceral effect. Much like this insidious flesh eating disease that still plagues a handful of lesser developed nations, gossip can gnaw away at friendships while ultimately devouring entire communities.

There’s a old proverb they says “Gossiping and lying go hand in hand.” If we were to honestly reflect upon these words, I think we’d have to agree that this is true. The casual and poisonous bearing of false witness has become far too commonplace in our society today But it’s also important to point out that gossip needn’t be false to be evil. Fact is there’s a lot of truth that shouldn’t be passed around. The virtue of charity, something that every Catholic should pursue and pray for, goes far beyond financial support for the impoverished and less fortunate. As author John Holmes once said, “There is no exercise better for the heart than reaching down and lifting people up.”

Due to our fallen nature, the temptation to gossip will always be strong and it is dangerously easy to succumb to. Most do. To refrain from it requires constant vigilance and the spiritual gift of self control. Whereas self control was once a much cherished and admired virtue, today it is in short supply

But how would your life be different if you decided to walk away from gossip and verbal defamation? Whether you were the perpetrator or merely the one passively listening in? Strive to make today the day. When you speak only the good you know of other people and encourage others to do the same, it has a contagious effect. Others will admire you and perhaps even engage in a little honest introspection. For in the words of Henry Thomas Buckle, “Great minds discuss ideas. Average minds discuss events. Small minds discuss people.” And those who speak poorly of others oftentimes reveal what he or she lacks.

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“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” ~ Ephesians 4:29

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