I resolve to speak ill of no man whatever, not even in a matter of truth; but rather by some means excuse the faults I hear charged upon others, and upon proper occasions speak all the good I know of everybody. — Benjamin Franklin
Do you really believe that Franklin didnt get into a little gossiping now and then? Well, he actually only resolved to stick to the high road. He didnt promise to do it. Thats just as well, since he didnt have much trust in anyone. For example, he said, If you would keep your secret from an enemy, tell it not to a friend; and Three may keep a secret, if two of them are dead. Its little wonder that he liked to play it close to the vest when it came to other people. Speaking ill of no man, excusing faults, and speaking all the good he knew was a very clever way to avoid becoming the focus of others gossip. Franklin may have picked up the strategy from Virgil who said, Fama, malum quo non aliud velocius ullum, mobilitate viget, viresque acquirit eundo. If you are a tad rusty with your Latin, that means, Report, that which no evil thing of any kind is more swift, increases with travel and gains strength by its progress.
With authorities the like of Virgil and Franklin admonishing you not to gossip, its in your interest to know as much as you can about gossiping and gossips. For instance, Walter Winchell clarified one of the gossips core strategies when he said, Gossip is the art of saying nothing in a way that leaves practically nothing unsaid. The super stars pursue their art through inference and innuendo, not facts or plain talk. Bertrand Russell added his two cents worth with, No one gossips about other people’s secret virtues. When it comes to gossiping, if you dont have something good to say, its your turn.
Of course, Virgil and Franklin arent the only high road folks who advised against gossiping. Edward Wallis Hoch said, There is so much good in the worst of us, and so much bad in the best of us, that it hardly becomes any of us to talk about the rest of us. If that werent the final word on it, a Jewish proverb says, What you don’t see with your eyes, don’t witness with your mouth. No, thats still not the end of the unsolicited advice. A Chinese proverb says, What is told in the ear of a man is often heard 100 miles away; and a Spanish proverb says, Whoever gossips to you will gossip about you. All of the high road wisdom not withstanding, dont forget what Wendell Phillips knew to be true, The Puritan’s idea of hell is a place where everybody has to mind his own business.