The definition of backbiting: to say mean or spiteful things about a person or to attack the character or reputation of a person who is not present.
Do you know of someone who backbites? Have you ever thought of the reason why an individual has a need to backbite? Once a person knows they have been spoken about in a negative manner what does that person do with the information? Does that individual stay quiet, confront the individual, or begin a cycle of doing the same thing? How does that impede someone’s spiritual progress?
I have thought about the reasons people backbite in an office environment and amongst friends. Often the person who backbites has someone listen to derogatory communication about that person. Usually, that individual provides energy to the one doing it by agreeing and or listening and may backbite as well.
Backbiting individuals often have control issues or are jealous of another individual. Perhaps they are angry with an individual and instead of confronting that individual because they are uncomfortable with confrontation will backbite instead. The difficulty in letting a person know (the one that backbites) how you feel can perhaps cause even more disharmony and friction within the office or friends. It is important to be honest with yourself regarding how you react.
When I was in India, I was talking to a couple of Australians who communicated about their toilets having trouble because of a typhoon. Soon after I heard two Americans state “all he knows is shit and piss” which I perceived was about me. After hearing those cruel remarks, I immediately went to Meher Baba’s tomb (my teacher) and asked Him why I was devastated by those words. Eventually, He inwardly told me, “you have to get rid of praise and blame.” Not easy, since so many individuals have a need to be wanted, liked, accepted, or affirmed.
There was a time when I worked in a corporate environment in which the sales manager would tell Polish, gay, and women bashing jokes. Even though I did not laugh just being there gave support to his demeaning jokes. After some time, I had to let the sales manager know I did not wish to be a part of those jokes. This is different then backbiting. By letting go of that scenario, it shifted the energy between the sales manager and me. After two weeks, he told me “I can’t shift the whole office because of you.” Believe it or not, we continued to have a decent relationship.
Each person must know how to best handle being in an atmosphere of backbiting. Is it better to let the backbiter know how you feel or is it best to be silent? Perhaps, if you are silent and not join in backbiting, it can shift the energy in a positive direction. So, be aware not only of how you feel within the context of someone who backbites but what you do with the energy.
Backbiting individuals have learned, from childhood, not to express themselves with an adult who diminishes their self-worth. That child has learned not to confront another individual or speak their truth in a healthy way. Perhaps a sibling received more attention and they never felt like they belonged. As that child becomes older, he/she will often look, even unconsciously, for allies to put down, attack, or discredit another. It can be difficult to ask oneself difficult questions regarding backbiting based upon history. It takes courage to confront those demons.