Mon | Sep 23, 2019

Hello Mi Neighbour | Discuss others with a motive to help rather than destroy

Published:Wednesday | September 11, 2019 | 12:20 AM

Hello mi neighbour! While backbiters may find the process of backbiting enjoyable and quite entertaining, the outcome is often the opposite for the victim. Backbiting involves a mixture of truth, ‘mek-up’ stories, assumptions, jealousy and evil thoughts etc. The dictionary defines backbiting as “malicious talk about someone who is not present”. Backbiting is therefore one of the most sinister means by which a neighbour’s character can be tarnished by another neighbour!

Think of someone taping up your mouth, tying your hands and feet, and placing you within earshot of a negative conversation about you. You hear lies, made-up stories, assumptions and heresies. You want to set the record straight, but ‘your hands are tied’. You cannot say, “That’s not true…it was not $50,000 as many believe, but it was really $5,000 ” …. The conversation has ended, the wrong impression of you is formed, full stop. That’s how backbiting works: people discuss and form negative opinions of you behind your back, which you have no opportunity to defend!

The fact that backbiting comes to us so naturally does not make it less of a ‘crime’ than stealing, cheating, adultery, and so on. Its effect on the community can be even more destructive. It occurs in the simplest and most jovial conversations between good friends and acquaintances.

The name against whom a prejudice is held by one party may just pop up in the conversation and takes it down the backbiting alley. By the end of the friendly conversation, negative opinions are formed of a person who might even be a long-time friend of the other party, thus creating confusion and division. It’s a small world.

Someone puts it this way: the taste of backbiting lingers. Over time, a small issue becomes a big one that drives a wedge between friends. Where there once was a clean and pure source, it has been stirred up dark and murky.

Wherever genuine love for others exists, backbiting becomes impossible. If we think someone is guilty of a misdemeanour, we should ‘do unto them as we would want them do unto us’, empathize, remembering that our flaws could even be the subject of conversations elsewhere, as we speak. But that takes real love – not paper love.

Wouldn’t it be great if the rumour you heard recently died at your feet, because you decided to take it no farther? “Where there is no wood, the fire goes out; and where there is no talebearer, strife ceases.”

If we allow the rumour to continue, we are just as guilty as the initiator. We should never participate in backbiting just to be in our friends’ ‘good book’ (of course, that’s a bad book) or to be in the inner circle. We are more valuable to humanity than that!

People will often defend backbiting by saying that every single word they speak is true. That may be true, but do we backbite to build or destroy? If we discuss someone with a view to help him or her, it is not called backbiting; it is called kindness.

Backbiting is evil, kindness is good. Why not discuss others with a motive to help rather than destroy? And please do not leave out those on the list .

Question: is it an insult to flatly deny a friend an opportunity to backbite someone with you?

 

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