By D.L. Russell
There once was a young preacher who moved to a small, very God-fearing community. Every month, all the religious leaders would dedicate an evening to meet, discuss events of the day and fellowship with one another. And since there was a new member among them, everyone made sure they were in attendance at the next scheduled event.
That night, there was a definite feeling of the Holy Spirit in the home of one of the group’s most senior members. Delicious food was served and it was all washed down with wine; drank in moderation, of course. Afterwards, several powerful passages were recited from the “good book,” followed by stirring and passionate discussion of what was read.
As the evening drew to its ending, the senior member of the group called everyone into a small circle for the closing prayer then announced the time for confessions to be heard. Not being sure what this meant, the new preacher asked for more specifics.
“Being the heads of our churches, mosques and synagogues, we must keep a certain stature about ourselves, in the eyes of our congregations, my friend,” Pastor Jones replied.
“Yes, and this means we sometimes must hold our tongues when it comes to our own trials and tribulations,” Father Flannigan added.
“This is our opportunity to get things off of our chest, so to speak,” Minister Abernathy went on.
One at a time, each member of the group told of a personal transgression that had recently been weighing on their hearts and or minds. They each spoke with honesty and openness on everything from Father Flannigan’s excesses when it came to Irish Whiskey, to Pastor William’s tendency to gaze a little too long at the shapely legs of the most attractive women of his congregation. Minister Abernathy spoke of how in a moment of weakness he had recently snuck off to a nearby casino and pulled the handles of the slot machines until his arms were sore and Rabbi Goldberg admitted to having doubts about the Lord after the recent death of his mother.
After each member had taken his turn, the young preacher found himself being the center of attention. There was a long pause as everyone waited on him to open up.
“You are among friends, brother. Surely there must be something you would like to say tonight,” Pastor Jones said, breaking the silence. “We are all human.”
“I just couldn’t,” the young preacher told them. “I just couldn’t.”
“Sure you can brother,” several of them told him. “Sure you can.”
“Well, I do have a shortcoming I’ve been trying to correct for quite some time,” the young preacher said shyly, his head bowed in a look of humiliation. “I’ve prayed and prayed on it, but I’ve never spoken of it to anyone.”
“Yes, this is why you are here tonight, I believe,” Mullah Ali stated, with an extended finger towards the ceiling. “God has placed you with us in order for your conscience to be cleansed.”
“Yes, yes, I agree,” said the senior member of the group. “This is tonight’s purpose.”
Again, there was a long pause.
“Ok,” the young preacher finally said. He cleared his throat, and suddenly his eyes began to transform from a look of bashfulness to one of caged excitement and he quickly blurted out, “My sin is that I love to gossip, and I can’t wait until we leave here tonight so I can tell everybody in town about everything that was said here tonight!”
Someone shared that story with me many years ago, but I never forgot its deeper meaning.
I recently read that when a person eats chocolate, certain chemical reactions within our bodies are fired off, just like when the body is under the influence of cocaine. I’m not a scientist, but I’d be willing to bet that hearing and even more importantly, the passing on of gossip causes a similar chemical reaction.
Gossip doesn’t care who it hurts, it doesn’t care if it’s true, and it doesn’t care if it came from information told in confidence. Like an infection, it only wants to go on; to burrow into as many ears as it can and to spew from of as many mouths as it can.
Gossip is a powerful weapon. It can cause long-term negative opinions to be formed and when it is untrue, it can destroy individuals and countries alike.
The next time you are privy to a bit of tabloid-liquor, watch the eyes of the person sharing it with you. Listen to how their voice changes, how their posture transforms and how their hands move. And when you feel you just have to pass on that juicy bit of information, take a long look at yourself. Are you under the influence of something?
D.L. Russell is an author of Horror and Dark Fantasy and the co-founder and editor of Strange, Weird, and Wonderful Publishing. You can also visit his blog at www.dlrussellsblog.com.
This article originally appeared in our April 17, 2013 issue.