Speak No Evil
Why gossip is bad for your soul.
BY: Lori Palatnik with Bob Burg
Toward the end of a speaking engagement in Toronto on the subject of positive speech, a woman I knew raised her hand and asked if she could share a story about something that had happened to her. This is what she said:
"I am Jewish. And although I was not raising my three sons in a particularly observant way, after their teens two of them decided to study in Israel and were becoming quite observant. This alarmed my husband and me, so we traveled there to see what was going on.
"Thankfully, not only did our sons seem happy and fulfilled, but we were very impressed with the staff and administration of the Judaic college they were attending. They took me to some of the classes, including some that explained the laws of speech. After a while my husband and I had had enough of the studies and decided to 'escape' to the resort town of Netanya.
"The first morning there I was lounging by the pool and enjoying the sun. To my left was a woman, also relaxing. To my right were two women who were in engaged in an animated conversation. Since I was right beside them I couldn't help but overhear their discussion. They were talking about someone they knew who had just gotten married. They were saying that his first marriage had ended in a very messy way, but they were not sure of the details.
"Amazingly, by listening to them I realized that I knew who they were talking about! This guy had grown up with my boys in our community back home! What a small world. And not only that. I happened to know all the details of his first marriage and messy divorce. (An in-the-know friend had filled me in.)
I took off my sunglasses and was leaning over with glee, about to tell all, when suddenly a picture of my boys in Jerusalem flashed before me. All those classes on morals and ethics, especially the ones on speech, came swirling through my mind.
"You can imagine that it took all my self-control to put my glasses back on, lie back and not say a word. After awhile they finished their talk, got up and left.
"A few minutes later the woman to my left asked me the time and we started chatting. We played some 'Jewish Geography,' and it seemed we had some common friends back home. Then she told me her name, and I swear to you as I am standing here today, it turned out that this woman was the mother of the man's first wife! The man that those two women on my right side had been talking about!
"I was stunned, realizing that if I had leaned over and joined that conversation and contributed all the dirt on his first marriage, this woman would surely have overheard. I could picture her standing up and announcing that it was her daughter we were gossiping about. And I would have died a thousand deaths.
"This was going through my mind as I nodded and pretended to listen to her. All the while I was thanking my boys and the rabbis in Jerusalem for saving me from what would have been the greatest embarrassment of my life."
As the saying goes, what goes around comes around. So do yourself and so many others a favor: Don't even let it go.