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Why We Gossip and What We Need Instead
I can think of a bunch of magazines that would go out of business if we weren’t real curious about the lives of celebrities. Not to mention the TV and movie industries that thrive on it.
There is something good about it and something not so good. The good reason, I suspect, is that we all want templates, role models, for constructing better lives. In spite of celebrity hardship in the relationship area, celebrities do represent success. And that’s something all of us wish for. Or at least dream about.
That’s a good thing. There’s nothing wrong with looking up to someone you admire for creating a path that you could follow, maybe to a lesser degree.
But how many people actually use the lives of celebrities as roadmaps for personal achievement? And a second question might be: Are we more interested in their success or their failure? A recent report indicated that what grabs most of our curiosity is the latter. That makes my whole premise wrong. Which leads me to the bad part.
People’s lives may be missing something. People feel an emptiness that they can fill with addictions, obsessive thoughts, or gossip—about celebrities or friends. These are really bad choices because they don’t actually “fill” that empty space. Let’s take addictions which is familiar to most people as an example.
The addicted person, say, has internet sex, feels great for about 2 or 3 minutes, maybe a glow for another 10, and then the shame sets in. Or, to keep the shame out, the individual feels nothing. Now that’s a greater shame! Because, since he (or she) has trained himself not to feel shame, the sex wasn’t so good either. He needs more! He needs something more exciting. This is the reason why the problem gets worse. Whether we’re talking about gambling, alcohol, work, drugs, whatever, the drug of choice wears thin very quickly. In order to keep it going, one must up the ante either in terms of more time spent or more daring escapades.
Now, compare this to gossip. The latter seems relatively harmless. Lives are not ruined and families are not devastated from it. Or are they? Let’s look closer at it:
We can agree with the premise that a person whose life is full and rich in meaning and satisfaction would have little time or patience for celebrity or personal gossip, right? Such a person would say (as I often do): “Gee, I feel sorry for that person. They should come see me for help!”
But the fall from grace of particular people would not occupy their minds; it would certainly not give them a smug sense of satisfaction.
The person with the empty life, on the other hand, turns to the gossip to fill the same void that the addicted individual does. In fact, the gossip-monger could be a spouse of someone addicted to porn! The neglect caused by one spouse leads the other into a fantasy world that doesn’t really do anything.
The object of the gossip can be deeply damaged by it, especially if it is a friend or family member. While the gossiper might feel better knowing that he didn’t get into the trouble that the object of the gossip did, that person who was the subject (or object) of the gossip cannot put Humpty Dumpty together afterwards. And often, the gossip isn’t even accurate. We really never do know what is going on behind closed doors, so why jump to conclusions?
If you have fallen into the gossip trap, here is my recommendation: Take an assessment of what is missing in your life and start to fill it. Look carefully at every area:
1. Is your work fulfilling? Are you recognized for your accomplishments and contributions?
2. Is your marriage fulfilling? Do you get positive feedback for anything, whether it is your skills in the home to your skills in bed? Is your marriage supportive of you? Is your spouse someone you can turn to for advice or aid?
3. Are your other family relationships healthy or do they drain you? That would include children, parents, siblings, in-laws, and other extended family.
4. Are your finances secure? Do you worry about them?
5. Does your environment give you joy? That includes the house, the neighborhood, the surroundings.
6. Do you have friends? Are they real friends or is the only thing you “do” together gossip?
When you’re done assessing all this, it’s time to figure out how to fill the gaps in your life. In that way, your life will be real instead of based on somebody else’s business.