“This one will try to borrow money.”
“That one broke up a family.”
“Stay away from that one.”
To all of these perhaps well-meaning individuals I had the same answer. “Please stop. I don’t want to hear it. I have my own eyes and ears. I like to get to know people myself.”
Sometimes I would just turn and walk away. One persistent backbiter who was horrified that I was friends with someone he didn’t approve of kept it up despite my repeatedly asking him to stop. Finally, knowing this person to be a faithful church-goer, I said, “Who are you to cast the first stone?” That stopped the stream of negative talk immediately. The reference was a story in John 8 of Jesus teaching in the temple when the scribes and Pharisees wanted to tempt him to violate the law of Moses.
They dragged in a woman caught committing adultery and said, “Now Moses in the law commanded us, that such should be stoned: but what sayest thou?” Jesus wisely anwered, “He that is without sin among you, let him cast the first stone at her.” One by one, they left, leaving only the woman. Jesus said, “Woman where are thine accusers? Hath no man condemned thee?” She said, “No man, Lord.” And Jesus said to her, “Neither do I condemn thee; go, and sin no more.”
Who are we to judge others and condemn them with our backbiting? Mathew 7:1 says, “Judge not, lest ye yourself be judged.”
When we backbite or gossip, do we realise we are poisoning ourselves with negativity? Baha’u’llah, Founder of the Baha’i Faith warns, “the fire of the tongue devoureth both heart and soul… that seeker should regard backbiting as grievous error, and keep himself aloof from its dominion, inasmuch as backbiting quencheth the light of the heart and extinguisheth the life of the soul.”
So, backbiting, which is talking about others with the intent of slandering them, is spiritual suicide.
At a Women’s Gathering this week, several individuals shared the devastating effects as victims of backbiting and gossip. One said, “Once that tiger gets out of the cage, you don’t know who it’s going to eat.” Another wisely asked, “How do we avoid it, solve it, and cope with it?” Several strategies are found in Scripture.
1. Avoid backbiting like the plague. First and foremost, hold your tongue. When you feel a backbite coming on, bite it back! Proverbs 11:12 says, “Whoever derides their neighbour has no sense., but the one who has understanding holds his tongue.”
2. When others backbite to you, kindly ask them to stop. Don’t be a passive enabler. Change the subject.
3. Realise that we are all struggling and all have problems. Have compassion for others and forgive them. “If ye do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” (Mathew 6:15) “Be ye all of one mind, having compassion for one another.” (1 Peter 3:8) Baha’u’llah says, “Know ye not why we created you all from the same dust? That no one should exalt himself over the other…It is incumbent on you to be even as one soul.” (Hidden Words 68) Be a unifier, not a divider.
4. Call on your courage to sort out a problem face to face, without spreading it to others. Be truthful and tactful. Listen with compassionate curiosity.
5. Don’t backbite about people who are backbiting you! That just keeps the poison spreading in the community.
This poem by Araura student and author Anastasia Charlie says it beautifully:
I am but a brief
passing through this world.
So why should I be better
Than anyone else?
We all go to the same place
At the end.
So why can’t we just love?