tend to be optimistic people. Although we recognize that we will face
a load of trouble and pain in this life, we believe that the
Atonement of Christ can conquer all in the end and that through
Christ, our bitter moments here can be swallowed up in endless joy
has been conquered, forgiveness has offered to all who will, and our
tears can be wiped away. We also understand that the trials of this
life frequently can have meaning, in spite of the randomness and
seeming senselessness that can be found in a world with chance and
one area, though, we could use a touch more optimism in our lives. I
refer to the daily opportunities we have to speak of others close to
us. This includes our bosses, our coworkers, our cousins, our
neighbors, our children, and friends, and perhaps especially our
enemies. When you speak of someone else and are tempted to say
something unflattering, consider these two questions:
is the price of being optimistic about that person? Would anything
important be lost by giving the person the benefit of a doubt, or
simply withholding criticism, or offering the possibility that
seemingly bad actions have been misunderstood?
optimism and kindness cause any real harm? Often there is no need to
add to the unkind words of others, and sometimes great good can be
done with kindness.
is the price of being negative about the person? Those engaging in
gossip or backbiting rarely consider this question seriously, but
there is often a price, especially if your comments get back to the
target in some form, as they often do. Given the potential price, is
there really any point to joining the backstabbing?
price of unkind comments can be great. People have lost jobs over
them. Relationships have been permanently damaged. Years of grief
have resulted. This would rarely be the case if the person speaking
behind someone's back recognized that whatever is said has a high
probability of getting back to its target.
it 10% of the time? 30% of the time? It depends on your social
circles and other factors, but it is surprising to me how common it
is for a stray remote backstabbing to eventually be delivered
straight to the person you discussed.
it is deliberate, sometimes it is accidental, but it happens so
frequently that the wisest course in your conversations is to assume
that what you say will be heard by people you did not want to hear it
— and that was true even before NSA began its current business
model of protecting citizens by vigorously spying on them.
great story illustrating that principle is on the LDS.org website in
a section for youth. "Choosing
Not to Gossip"
by Brett Schachterle shares his story of being on the technical crew
for a high school musical.
crew at one point began chatting among themselves using their radio
headsets, sharing progressively unkind gossip about the cast members
on stage. Brett was tempted to fit in with the group and add some of
his own comments, but he knew that gossip was wrong and he chose not
felt sick hearing some of the comments, but I was afraid to stand up
against my new friends. I wish I had, because as I tolerated their
jokes, I was eventually tempted to laugh and make my own comments. I
began to rationalize why it would have been fine. Nobody but the tech
crew would have heard me, and I wanted to fit in with the people
hard as it was, I knew that backbiting about those onstage wasn’t
right, and I chose not to gossip.
the rehearsal we learned that everything we had said over the
headsets had been broadcast backstage. All 60 or so of the cast
members had heard us talking. Some were angry, upset, or embarrassed.
No one was impressed.
while I was talking with one of my friends about what had happened,
she said, “Everyone knows you’d never say anything like
that.” Her comment shocked me, and I realized the significance
of the choice I had made. If I had chosen to join in with the gossip,
what would that have said about me? What would that have said about
grateful for the choice I made in that dark, little theater, even
when I thought others wouldn’t know, because it has opened
blessings of friendship, peace, and confidence that I would have lost
had I chosen to gossip.
of us, whether we realize it or not, speak in settings far more open
and public than the dark little theater that Brett experienced. Our
comments can be spread to thousands via social media, surreptitious
recordings, or other means.
we speak of others, may we be as kind as possible, even when tempted
to be harsh. I've often regretted my harsh comments and have rarely
regretted kind ones, even when my optimism for others was sorely
unfounded. There are times we need to be critical and speak harshly,
but in general these are far rarer than our episodes with harsh
the good in others can sometimes do much more than just help us avoid
an unpleasant price. Sometimes hearts can be softened and little
miracles can be achieved with kind words and a touch of healthy
Jeff Lindsay has been defending the Church on the Internet since 1994, when he launched his
LDSFAQ website under JeffLindsay.com. He has also long been blogging about LDS matters on
the blog Mormanity (mormanity.blogspot.com). Jeff is a longtime resident of Appleton,
Wisconsin, who recently moved to Shanghai, China, with his wife, Kendra.
He works for an Asian corporation as head of intellectual property. Jeff and Kendra are the parents of 4 boys, 3 married and the the youngest on a mission.
He is a former innovation and IP consultant, a former professor, and former Corporate Patent
Strategist and Senior Research Fellow for a multinational corporation.
Jeff Lindsay, Cheryl Perkins and Mukund Karanjikar are authors of the book Conquering
Innovation Fatigue (John Wiley & Sons, 2009).
Jeff has a Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering from Brigham Young University and is a registered US
patent agent. He has more than 100 granted US patents and is author of numerous publications.
Jeff's hobbies include photography, amateur magic, writing, and Mandarin Chinese.