Three little monkeys stand before my imagination. One covers his eyes, one his ears, and the third his mouth, representing “see, hear, and speak no evil.” My Grandmother loved the image, so it makes me think of her when I stumble upon its representation.
The problem is, there is evil, of course, and we can’t cover our eyes to it. To do so would be like children hiding our heads under a blanket to protect us from a monster prepared to do us harm. The monkeys from the statue don’t mean turn off the news. They don’t represent insulating from reality.
The evil the monkeys warn against is that of gossip. Chuckles about a neighbor’s latest exploit, cheating spouses, troubled children, and friends venting about one another. We hear and see so much every day.
Often though, the artists depict the monkeys as mischievous creatures, peeking around fingers, unplugging one ear, or smiling lips escaping the hands’ confines. Innocent fun, right? What harm is there in peeking just a little? Hearing what is said? Letting slip a secret?
Many people enjoy gossip. To hear of the woes of another makes us forget our own hardships or failings. We sit in a place of superiority, judging the actions of another instead of empathizing with the plight. We feel included, a part of a secret, in solidarity with the tale-tellers. We cast aspersions and point fingers, secretly pleased we are not scrutinized.
Sometimes, friends vent to one another, secure that their words go no further. Although not an ideal situation, we find ourselves trapped when people dear to us complain about a perceived injustice or trying situation. Know your associates. Look on their action with the eyes of friendship.
The companion expressing concerns could be speaking out of character. He or she may need to verbalize those little things that “get under their skin.” You could be the only person who will listen without judging, a safe “therapy session.” The hope is once aired, like Queen Elsa frigidly explains, “let it go.” This safe place to work through frustrations should remain an inviolate pact. The trust in such a situation is precious. Once lost, it is never regained.
But again, I think those monkeys warn us of the evils within our own natures. We should strive to see the goodness in our friends, hear the need in their words, and keep our tongues from sharing titillating stories. To twitter like birds in springtime about others’ personal information demonstrates immaturity, untrustworthiness, and a lack of good character.
The truth about gossip is its insidious nature. It resides at the top of a slippery slope. Whispers in the darkness are hard to trace. False reports cause trouble and harm. Perjury, slander, and libel are nothing more than inflated rumors.
We hear of terrible deeds every day. What we do with this knowledge builds our character and defines us. Motherhood’s wisdom reminds, “If you can’t say something nice, then say nothing all.” Although we exert no control over others, we master our own words. We must see the potential harm in what we might say. Will it hurt someone’s feelings? Their relationships? Their status in society? We must hear and use discernment. Is there truth to the words? Could they be exaggerated? Could they be, in fact, a lie? But most important of all, we must remember to govern our tongues and actions. Think with kindness. Imagine yourself or your loved ones subjected to such scrutiny. Then, put those metaphorical fingers in place and see, hear, and speak no evil.
To read more of our letters, click on The Path!