It surprised me to learn that Pope Francis and I share a New Year’s Resolution…
To stop gossiping.
Flickr Creative Commons / Ripton Scott
I’ll admit I imagined the leader of the Catholic Church would have a loftier resolution, something fit for a spiritually self-actualized individual… something I can’t even wrap my head around, as I am still working on my own personal development on a daily basis.
But maybe this shouldn’t come as a surprise. After all, Pope Francis has come to be called “the world’s parish priest,” celebrated for his authentic connection to the world’s people. In fact, he is frequently seen out among the poor, often embracing strangers and even kissing their feet.
The Catholic Church’s first Jesuit pope and the first non-European pope in more than 1,000 years, Francis is steadfast in his criticism of capitalism and materialism. Since his arrival at the Vatican, he has been known to opt for more modest amenities than former popes, seeking to live the values he preaches.
Through his homilies, Pope Francis gives actionable advice we can easily introduce to our daily lives. For the past year, he has been spreading the message of ongoing self-reform year round, from making time for others and treating everyone we come across in life as important to stop wasting food.
Many of our own New Year’s Resolutions are steeped in our desire to be better people—for ourselves, for our partners, for our friends, for complete strangers.
The one thing Pope Francis’ “resolutions” have in common is that they all challenge us to be men and women for and with others…
If we clean our plates each night, we make available food and resources for those who can’t afford to squander.
If we stop judging each other, we make room for tolerance and empathy in the world.
And if we go out into the streets and meet the poor in the flesh, as Pope Francis encourages, we will better understand the human condition and be able to empathize with our fellow brothers and sisters.
Now back to my own New Year’s resolution.
Why do we gossip?
At its most basic level, gossip offers a pastime, a guilty pleasure, and a comparative measure of self-worth.
It can provide a distraction from our work, our to-do lists, and our obligations.
Most often, however, it seems we fall into the trap of gossip because it can seem expected—and is so widely accepted— in social interaction.
Ironically, gossip helps to build a bond and a sort of “trust” between those partaking, despite its reputation as small-minded and backstabbing.
Aside from the fact that gossip almost always catches up with us, it can be damaging to relationships, including our relationship with ourselves.
What’s more, outside of our personal lives, gossip is simply unprofessional.
In December, the pope reminded Vatican officials of this fact in a Christmas address, saying, “Let us all be conscientious objectors [of gossip], and mind you I’m not simply moralizing! Gossip is harmful to people, our work, and our surroundings.”
The pope went on to warn: “When professionalism is lacking, there is a slow drift downwards toward mediocrity.”
Pope Francis has often spoken of “the threat of gossip,” recounting that gossip has caused pain at the least and even death at its worst. He challenges us to transform gossip and judgment of others to love of others.
A worthy challenge indeed.
You can read the homilies that inspired a list of the Pope’s “Top 10 New Year’s Resolutions” here.
Do you have a New Year’s Resolution, or are you kick-starting a resolution from years past that needs a refresher?
What shapes your resolution-making process? Is it constructive criticism from a loved one, or a behavior you want to modify for your own betterment? Or, like me, do you find yourself calling to mind the values of a Jesuit education, or your upbringing?
What helps you keep your resolutions as the year goes on?
We would love to hear what our readers resolve to do in 2014.