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Gossip-Bonding: Reflections and Hard Won Lessons in Growing Up

In Zen world though sadly not given consistently clear and direct, mention or attention, we have something known as the “Ten Precepts.“ In reality the full meaning is, “The Ten Precepts that We are Personally and Collectively Responsible for Upholding,” as practitioners of the Buddha Way… Way of Universal Loving Presence.

They deeply important guidelines; encouraging healthy behavior. They’re living meditation practices inviting mutual solidarity, supporting an atmosphere of unity; within intersecting… interconnecting relationships. Without them, it can be really hard to have a sense of trust. Without a sense of trust, the consequences, are what we have now within our society… endless rivalry… mocking skepticism, condescension, resistance for the sake of resistance, without an actual intention for the evolving or healing of Interpersonal relationships, communities, and society as a whole.

Years ago, I recall sponsoring someone, who’s grand-father had a very wise expression. He would say, “I like myself and other people better, when I’m talking them up, instead of talking them down.” And this brings me to the point of this post… Gossip. The Sixth Precept is… ”Remember that silence is precious; do not gossip or engage in frivolous conversation.”

It’s one thing to discuss a person, when they’re not in our presence, in an effort to come to grips or clarity in a difficult situation; perhaps not having certainty about how to approach a topic, making preparations to meet a situation to try to work it through. It’s something altogether different and overly common to, “Talk someone down,” ridicule, undermine, undercut them with zero intention to work something out. In my observation it’s more like one or more persons doing what I call “Gossip-bonding,” targeting a given person, isolating and excluding them from community; as a method of inducing harm.

In Buddhism, this is sometimes referred to as, “Putting someone out of our heart,“ using gossip as a method of exile, and severing them from being worthy of kindness, respect and belonging. In the end “Gossip-Bonding” is like a “Rib spreader which creates, opens, maintains, and widens wounds that starve people of physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual resources. This is the essence of gossip as “Character assassination.”

In my direct experience, my first sponsor found out that I’d been gossiping about a person we both knew. When I met up with him to do some Step-work, he told me what he’d heard, and asked if I was doing that. I owned it and said, ”Yes.” His response was… “Gossip isn’t synonymous with: integrity, patience, tolerance, or compassion, much less love.“ He said it was “Passive/aggressive contempt, placing personality and gossiping in front of spiritual principles,” pointing out there wasn’t a pathway to friendship, if I’’m holding someone else in “Contempt.” How I would state it now, at this point in my uncovering and healing is… there’s no path to being fully whole, and wholly free, it I‘m gossiping… or “Gossip-bonding,” with people. I’m just shitting where I live, which is messed up.

Instantly I was embarrassed, cause I knew what he was saying was true. What became more apparent to me in my 25 year old mind, was my arrogance, which was a super effective way addiction-mind… negativity-mind could separate me from others. It was at that point my sponsor told me it was time for a Step Ten, “We continued to take (our own) personal inventory, and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.“ Essentially what he told me was, “It’s time to clean-up, grow-up, and show-up,” not just for myself… but others. Buddistically I tend to file Step Ten under Healthy mindfulness, Healthy intention, Healthy action, Healthy communication, that could… not guaranteed… result in Heathy understanding. Offering people dignity and grace, can be “A Thing.” He explained, “Step Ten is a part of how we can earn ourselves to fully whole and wholly free from self-obsession and self-centered action.”

In closing, I know too intimately what it is to have a “Cutting tongue,” gossiping about the shortcomings or failings of others, picking them apart like a sniper; without an intention to somehow help them directly. As it turned out, I learned that it wasn’t a way of pointing to where I was a “Bad,” person. It exposed where I was wounded, that would influence me to do such things. Through practicing the Precept of actively abstaining from “Gossip” and "Frivolous conversation,” Bernard Meltzer said something I use as a point of reference, that I've learned to apply... "Before you speak ask yourself if what you are going to say is true, is kind, is necessary, is helpful. If the answer is no, maybe what you are about to say should be left unsaid.”

By applying this as a meditation practice, we let-go of what could be a tendency to “Gossip-bond,” with others and allow for meeting interpersonal relationships differently, to that we could leave some space of kindness, care, and unconditional positive regard. As my sponsor pointed out, “There’s a time that we’re going to have to learn to put the bullshit (of gossip) down, if we sincerely want to grow up and be the person we authentically want to be. It doesn’t happen by magic… it happens as a result of intentional action, accepting personal responsibility for the type of person we are.“ Please verify this through your own experience.

一We Are the Practice Itself

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