In his book Human, All Too Human, the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche wrote something we should all keep in mind:
A friend’s secret. – There will be few who, when they are in want of matter for conversation, do not reveal the more secret affairs of their friends.
Our social lives tend to be marked by plenty of awkward silences which we long to fill with dialogue. Sometimes commenting on the weather, politics, or some shared activity will work. But sometimes we need something far more interesting and dramatic. It is here that some gossip about others will do the trick…preferably the revelation of secrets. I have been guilty of this, and I believe that in most cases I was less interested in harming someone’s reputation and more interested in succeeding socially. But whatever the motive or explanation, it is simply unacceptable. No wonder, Nietzsche points out, that we subsequently experience pangs of conscience:
Pangs of conscience after social gatherings. – Why after the usual sort of social gatherings do we suffer from pangs of conscience? Because we have taken important things lightly, because in discussing people we have spoken without complete loyalty or because we have kept silent when we should have spoken, because occasionally we have not leaped up and run off, in short because we have behaved in society as though we belonged to it.
Let us be courageous enough to respect ourselves and others as we socialize.