Dealing with gossip/backbiting

Mar 2013
191
CA
#1
Long time, no see. I wanted to get some anonymous advice because I'm afraid the people I'm speaking about could see me posting in the Baha'i FB group.

This is a real life scenario about gossip and backbiting. I would like to get opinions from seasoned Baha'is on what we are to do in situations like this.

Background: About 2 years ago, I became friends with a group of young women. About 20 of us. We all had a common interest. Over time, it dwindled down to a core group of about 10-15 with smaller, closer friendships developing. So everyone is closer with 2-3 women than they are with the others in the group. We have a running group chat on our phones, so some people chat every day (me), some people pop in less often, and some people PM a lot.

Tonight, I received a Facebook message from one of the women saying that there were two people in our group that were aggressively backbiting and gossiping. She swore me to secrecy, that I could not tell these two people that we were all "on to them." She gave me the jist of it being really, really awful stuff and then named the two women specifically and showed screenshots of the more "mild" of the drama. I was told that these two women have been talking very badly about everyone in the group, which would include me, presumably.

I wasn't told what was said about me nor do I want to know.

The woman then went on to say that we are going to do a group 'slow fade' where we gradually stop talking and let the group die a more "natural" death, so to speak. Then everyone except those two is going to continue being friends through another medium.

Question: What is the proper response to this situation as a Baha'i?

If I am not to engage in backbiting and gossip, do I take this woman's word for it and cut off other friends on the pretense that everything she's saying is true?

Do I approach the other two women to get their side of the story? Or is that engaging in the drama?

What should I have told my friend who revealed this information to me? As it was happening, I got caught up and did lots of "Oh wow. I can't believe that. That's definitely not true" et cetera. However, this is essentially me listening to gossip about someone else gossiping. So should I have cut her off and said don't tell me?

Because the thing here is, objectively, I would want to know that these two women are taking personal information and saying horrible, cruel things behind my back and my friends' backs. I would want to know so I no longer told them private information or even to cut them out completely. But how could I know unless someone gossiped about them to me? And the person that brought it to me got it from other people gossiping. It's like 4th-degree gossip at this point.

ETA: These two women have never spoken badly about someone to me. I was never gossiped with. In turn, I've actually grown closer to them in the past few months and if they're saying bad things about me, they sure do keep up a great front of being very helpful and friendly with me.

It's all very high school, I know. But after it happened, I thought on it for a little bit and realized there was no easy solution to this from the Baha'i anti-gossip, anti-backbiting viewpoint.

Let me know your thoughts.
 
Last edited:
Aug 2014
1,369
Blue Planet
#2
Allaho Abha dear Rose

what you told us is NOT "high school conflict" :) it happens very often. people, most of them are wandering in the paths of delusions and are caught up in the darkness. so we will face cases of backbiting, lies, etc very often.

now regarding your condition, I personally think that even if those two women have been engaged in gossiping, the one who brought the news of it to you is JUST LIKE THEM. she has told you about gossiping women while she herself had been gossiping! it is the cunning attitude of the ego of which people are usually unaware.

my suggestion would be to, little by little, reduce your connection and friendship which all these three women; WITHOUT judging any of them. it is possible that what you have heard is not correct, then again it is possible that it is correct. but the case of backbiting is related to the realm of darkness and falsehood so it is better not to engage anymore. just tell to yourself that you see and accept the behaviors in different people; the behaviors may be right or wrong, you accept that such behaviors exist and as a free person you can chose to take distance from the darkness.

do not get angry with them. ego likes to make us angry, but we should defeat it. just little by little stop being friends with them. it is better to have a few, or very few (like one or two) enlightened, precious friends rather than 10 or more dark people :)
 
Dec 2012
199
Earth
#3
Greetings Rose,

The issue, as you have addressed it, can be identified in your following comment: "I wanted to get some anonymous advice because I'm afraid the people I'm speaking about could see me posting in the Baha'i FB group."

Gossip and backbiting thrive in any environment where publication is the means of communication. Everything you choose to publish, even within a personal message or email, can be used against you. This is why it is not suitable to make accusations against people through a publication on the basis of hearsay.

In relationship to ethical behaviour you are quite correct, it is it not appropriate to share accusations about other people and then ask the person you are sharing these with to not confront the accused. If your group cannot be upfront and honest with its own ad hoc members, then how it is going to manage the next time such an alleged situation occurs?

The Bahá'í Faith should help serve as a yardstick for you to live your personal life. It should not dictate how to react to every possible situation. This is simply a part of life, so learn how to investigate and come to your own decisions in all matters. One fact appears simple. This group appears to be splitting so either you go with one group, remain with the other, or say thank your very much and find something else you value in life. It is of course entirely possible that you have now spiritually outgrow this group. It does happens because some people grow spiritually faster than others. The real difficulty here may be that you have not as yet recognised your own spiritual potential. Commit all people to the care of God and follow your own heart for this is the true talisman.

Earth
 
Mar 2013
191
CA
#4
Allaho Abha dear Rose

what you told us is NOT "high school conflict" :) it happens very often. people, most of them are wandering in the paths of delusions and are caught up in the darkness. so we will face cases of backbiting, lies, etc very often.

now regarding your condition, I personally think that even if those two women have been engaged in gossiping, the one who brought the news of it to you is JUST LIKE THEM. she has told you about gossiping women while she herself had been gossiping! it is the cunning attitude of the ego of which people are usually unaware.

my suggestion would be to, little by little, reduce your connection and friendship which all these three women; WITHOUT judging any of them. it is possible that what you have heard is not correct, then again it is possible that it is correct. but the case of backbiting is related to the realm of darkness and falsehood so it is better not to engage anymore. just tell to yourself that you see and accept the behaviors in different people; the behaviors may be right or wrong, you accept that such behaviors exist and as a free person you can chose to take distance from the darkness.

do not get angry with them. ego likes to make us angry, but we should defeat it. just little by little stop being friends with them. it is better to have a few, or very few (like one or two) enlightened, precious friends rather than 10 or more dark people :)
Hi, nice to see you again maryam! Thanks for sharing your thoughts! :)

I have slept on this situation and still feel stuck. Like you said, the woman who brought it to my attention may be technically gossiping. I just still felt I would want to know that someone was that evil--for lack of a better word--so I could distance myself instead of growing closer.

At any rate, I'm not angry at anybody, which is probably a sign of me being a bit more grown up. I feel sad for the two offending women, because they clearly must be very unhappy themselves to sit around and say and do the things they have to their own friends. And my heart was breaking in my chest for the people who actually found out what was said about them, because it was awful, vile stuff.

The trouble is I don't really have many friends outside of this group. There were a few I got close to, so I'm considering leaving with the "new, improved" group.

This is actually the second group of women I've had a falling out with in the past year. Now I remember why I was only friends with guys as a teenager. Life was so much less dramatic lol
 
Mar 2013
191
CA
#5
Greetings Rose,

The issue, as you have addressed it, can be identified in your following comment: "I wanted to get some anonymous advice because I'm afraid the people I'm speaking about could see me posting in the Baha'i FB group."
Thanks for your response, Earth! :)

Gossip and backbiting thrive in any environment where publication is the means of communication. Everything you choose to publish, even within a personal message or email, can be used against you. This is why it is not suitable to make accusations against people through a publication on the basis of hearsay.
This is the one part I'm stuck on. I saw actual evidence because these women chose to say things over chat messages. I saw one screenshot with one of the women's words. It's a lot more convincing than "So-and-so told me X while we were at the coffee shop." There's a paper trail here, but the woman who came to me did not share everything she had. I think she just shared one instance to let me know she wasn't making it up.

In relationship to ethical behaviour you are quite correct, it is it not appropriate to share accusations about other people and then ask the person you are sharing these with to not confront the accused. If your group cannot be upfront and honest with its own ad hoc members, then how it is going to manage the next time such an alleged situation occurs?

The Bahá'í Faith should help serve as a yardstick for you to live your personal life. It should not dictate how to react to every possible situation. This is simply a part of life, so learn how to investigate and come to your own decisions in all matters. One fact appears simple. This group appears to be splitting so either you go with one group, remain with the other, or say thank your very much and find something else you value in life. It is of course entirely possible that you have now spiritually outgrow this group. It does happens because some people grow spiritually faster than others. The real difficulty here may be that you have not as yet recognised your own spiritual potential. Commit all people to the care of God and follow your own heart for this is the true talisman.

Earth
I am not to be trusted with spiritual decisions lol

I guess I just wanted input because the Baha'i faith is the only group I know of that is so strictly anti-gossip. And here I am caught up in gossip through no fault of my own and I have two sides to a story that's dividing my friends and I don't know how to proceed under Baha'i ethical theory.
 
Sep 2010
4,519
Normanton Far North Queensland
#6
Rose. These situations arise more often now as people now even watch gossip as entertainment. It is seen as an acceptable passtime.

We judge no one and look for the light of God in all.

Thus can you use this situation as a virtue empowering oportunity. Could you suggest/direxct the group chat/conversations on to how the world needs virtues.

Tackle the subject direct by choosing an example that shows how backbiting is a loss of Trust and Truefullness which leads to the erosion of all virtues.

Basically we have to be the light in this dark world. Try shedding the light and see how you go.

Regards Tony
 
Last edited:
Mar 2013
191
CA
#8
Update 1:

(There's a tl;dr at the bottom of this post.)

I appreciate this whole thing as an opportunity to figure out why the principle of not backbiting is so important, and to figure out how to apply it practically. So I'm just kind of documenting the experience here, maybe moreso for myself than anyone else, although I really wish I'd seen practical application of this principle in action a long time ago.

The "new group" minus the two girls who were ostracized was led by one particular person. We'll her Candy. When Candy continued to backbite in the new group chat, I posted a message explaining how I felt the treatment of the two girls was not "just" and that I did not want to be around gossip and drama. In conclusion, I told them that I was backing away from *both* groups because the whole situation was too messy to get to the bottom without engaging in gossip myself.

I had three people contact me privately and say they totally agreed with me and felt "extremely uncomfortable" with the whole situation. But all three women were too afraid to stand up for what they thought was right because they thought they'd be alone and lose all their friends in the group.

When Candy came back to backbite again, I removed myself from the group chat. Unbeknownst to me, this notified everyone else that I had formally left, and I got several messages of concern. Candy and one other girl who engaged in the behavior profusely apologized and owned up to the horror of their gossiping, but I didn't finish reading their messages. Candy further informed everyone through social media that she was taking a break from everything and reevaluating her life choices and priorities.

I have 4 private messages that I'm leaving unread for now. One message is from one of the ostracized girls, so I don't know how she even found out about this. It's such a disaster, but I think everyone in the group (about 15 women) is now aware of the dangers of backbiting. They see now how it destroyed our close friendships. They see how when someone gossips *with* you, they'll gossip *about* you, too. They see that it's important to confront people politely when you have an issue with them and not try to wage a secret, manipulative war. They also see how vital it is to speak up and say something when you feel something is not right.


TL;DR I publicly stood up for my Baha'i principles and everyone in the group is trying to apologize and reevaluate their choice to gossip and outcast other people. I think it's a win overall. I may not continue these friendships as a group, but I have told those who reached out to me that I would always be there for one-on-one support.
 
Dec 2012
199
Earth
#9
I really wish I'd seen practical application of this principle in action a long time ago.
Greetings Rose,

While spiritual principles are universal and open to all people of faith and no faith alike, it usually requires a sincere commitment of one's character in order to obtain positive results. This is what some people fail to understand. Anyone can determine right from wrong or make a comment about any spiritual principle. However, without the ability to apply it in a practical context, it is little more than spiritual chavernism. Deeds always trump words and opinions.

I am glad that you found the courage to apply this principle in your life because it means you will no longer be intimidated by such people. Once a person learns how to apply a spiritual principle they have the ability to repeat the process whenever it is necessary.

Well done.

Earth
 
Jun 2011
1,543
Somewhere "in this immensity"
#10
Hi Rose,

I'm sorry to hear about your unfortunate experience, and I can sympathize with how you must feel.

Regarding backbiting, you already know that we are not to engage in it. When others backbite in our presence, we should not participate and should dismiss ourselves from where it is happening. Perhaps it could be appropriate to say something to stop it, and discuss why it should not be done, but perhaps this is not always possible. But we are minimally obligated not to engage in it. It seems to me the shunning or cutting off such contacts for backbiting is not something we are called to do, but maybe some extreme circumstance might warrant it. I feel it is better to just be a good example and use caution while discussing this in your group because it seems to me that it might be possible to inadvertently engage, perhaps ever so subtly, in backbiting about those alleged backbiters...which would, of course, itself be backbiting and best avoided.

I wish you luck and hope your situation improves!
 
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