On the Wikipedia website:
Gossip is idle talk or rumour, especially about the personal or private affairs of others. It forms one of the oldest and most common means of sharing (unproven) facts and views, but also has a reputation for the introduction of errors and other variations into the information transmitted. The term also carries implications that the news so transmitted (usually) has a personal or trivial nature, as opposed to normal conversation.
The term is sometimes used to specifically refer to the spreading of dirt and misinformation, as (for example) through excited discussion of scandals. Some newspapers carry "gossip columns" which detail the social and personal lives of celebrities or of élite members of certain communities.
It goes on with the etymology of the word GOSSIP as deriving from the old english word 'god-parent' and basically referred to old woman who had too much to say about the neighbors, or a tattler.
Then, of course, it gets into the scriptural references. Proverbs 18:8 described it as food that is absorbed into the inmost self. Then the Apostle said in Romans chapter 1, sorted it into the category of maliciousness deserving of death. Later in chapter 3, he instructed to only speak of one another with love.
Wanna hear how I define it?
Anytime you discuss someone with someone else, collecting and spreading personal information you haven't bothered to confirm with that person as to whether or not that any of it is true, you have gossiped.
It's so easy to get there, too. I think it may start with a sincere concern. Perhaps you are worried about someone and you want to confer with another person who may know more than you that you have reason to worry. Who wants to be dramatic over nothing? The saying 'making mountains out of molehills' comes to mind. Nobody wants that kind of chaos, right?
But, what if that person didn't know anything about it? Now, they are seeing things they hadn't before and they may go to yet another person to figure things out. The gossip chain has begun.
Not all gossip is that innocently begun. Some is started by someone who thinks higher of themselves than their subject. Take for an example: a mother speaking about her daughter-in-law. Mother may know more about her son; she has been his mother his whole life, after all. Perhaps in her opinion, the daughter-in-law will never measure up. Isn't it malicious to belittle the daughter-in-law to all the neighbors or other relatives, rather than support her son in his choice.
I think the recent awareness about bullying has a lot to do with gossip. 'The first cut is the deepest' sang Sheryl Crow. Someone with a need to elevate themselves over someone else finds a weakness in that person and tells yet another person. They may never strike that person, but what's said always gets back to the subject and causes injury, even if it never becomes physical, there is wound inflicted and scar tissue on a soul, that takes time to heal, or in the case of the increasing rates of teen-age suicides, may never heal.
I have always had issues with gossip. I tend to turn and walk away from any conversation that goes in that direction. If that's not possible, I do change the subject forcibly, 'how about those SanFrancisco Giants, huh?' which gets met with nasty stares most of the time, but I don't have to listen to where this was going.
I have been the subject of gossip. Usually, when it gets back to me, I can be tough enough that it doesn't hurt. Once, though, it nearly killed me.
I once sought help for a very painful situation from a shepherd in my (religious) faith's congregation. I had always done my best to be an encouragement to all I associated with, so I was stunned when this 'shepherd' repeated things to me that had been said in the congregation. He stated that these were things I felt and said, but had never occured or even been considered. I was in such shock that I couldn't speak or defend myself. I left in the blackest state of mind and even though I continued attending, the wind had been knocked out of me, until I couldn't make myself go anymore. Without that joy of worship in my life anymore, I lost hope. Having no way to find help or to deal with my sadness, I began to plan my death. I became just like these young people in the recent news reports, someone without alternatives except to put an end to it all. What happened in the end was just to walk away from everything, rather than allow the people I loved more than myself to watch me fall apart completely. That was my solution, and I don't advise it to anyone else, because I ended up in a pretty dangerous situation. I believe I was protected because of the person I had been up until then, but without my past, my future could have been obliterated.
So, how do we get rid of gossip? I think it is time to declare a personal war on anything that resembles gossip. Anytime I become concerned about a person, I will go to that person and express my concern. Hopefully, that's how it will be taken, because I would only do that with someone I loved. Next, I will not listen to anything about anybody. No more gossip tv shows or thinly veiled 'news' programs, no more gossip magazines, no more talk shows that discuss someone's troubles without interviewing them to figure it all out. Only the positive about anyone will be spoken that I will hear.
. . .The hardest part will be leaving the knitting group when it goes round that way. . .