I sometimes talk behind people’s backs (when they hurt me) and I’m trying my best to change this. I also listen to other people talking about others behind their backs and I am trying to change that too. I keep thinking about taking an oath..I wish to take a zero tolerance approach towards this. I almost told myself and others that I am not going to listen (or say stuff behind people’s backs) anything demeaning about other people. However, I feel the issue is a little more complicated.
Barring a few spiritually advanced people, most of us talk about others without their knowledge. If I just say no to EVERYTHING negative that people say behind others’ backs, then am I not being a little too cruel? In my obsession to stick to my ideals, am I not depriving them of some temporary relief? Maybe we need to look at the nuances. A person can talk behind someone’s back because he/she wants to bring that person down. Maybe he/she feels jealous. The other reason could be that this person is GENUINELY hurt. I don’t think we need to encourage anybody because of the first reason even though it is also the result of pain. Why would you spend so much of your energy to bring others down? I cannot think of any other reason besides pain. However, it’s not a good idea to be a part of such malice because it’s just not worth it and it only shows your insecurity. But what about the other reason? Sometimes people hurt you a lot and to find some solace, you talk about how much that person’s actions have hurt you. You are doing this in the absence of the other person and this gives you a sense of power. Why? Because you feel powerless in front of the pain that this person has subjected you to. When you talk about this person behind his/her back and the person (who is listening to you) is convinced that you are right, then you feel powerful because it is a perfect solution that takes care of both the compassionate as well as the mean side of you. The mean side of you wants to take ‘revenge’ from the person who hurt you. The compassionate side wants to separate the person from his/her actions. So by not saying mean things on the person’s face, you honor the compassionate side of you. And you also give something to your mean side by talking about the person. Now, it has to be noted that initially you talk behind the back because you are REALLY hurt and you can’t bear it. But if you are doing this again and again then it’s your mean side that is in control.
There is no single answer to this problem. Sometimes, I guess it is okay for people to vent their anger and frustration behind people’s backs. However, the day we start bringing the other person down by deliberately maligning him/her and forget that there is a good side to him/her, then I guess we need to put a full-stop.