Bane of back-biting

‘Whisper’ is a game played by schoolchildren. It consists of relaying a whispered message down a long line of participants. The last one announces what he has heard. It invariably turns out to be a highly garbled version and evokes a great deal of laughter. We perhaps do not give much thought to it, but this is a game played in adult circles as well. Unfortunately, here it gives rise not to mirth but to unhappiness and goes by the name of ‘back-biting’. A good friend fell victim to it recently and it caused her a great deal of distress.

P works in the educational field and happened to share and discuss her inner feelings about certain events with a close friend. She heard her out with apparent sympathy, but lost no time in narrating it all to their superior. This she did with the motive of getting into her good books and reaping advantages. It was a breach of trust, which left P devastated. The back-biter is a dangerous opponent because this individual works stealthily and takes care to avoid coming into the open. Indeed, the word ‘back-biting’ has its origins in bull-fighting, where the attack is made from behind the animal, denying it any chance of defending itself and fighting the enemy fairly.

In human relationships, the manoeuvre consists of gossiping, telling tales and denigration. A typical example occurs in the epic, Ramayana. Kaikeyi is King Dasaratha’s youngest wife. When she comes to know that Rama, the son of Kausalya, would soon be crowned king, she is overjoyed. But Kooni, her confidante, poisons her mind. She reminds her that the King had promised to crown Bharata and also grant her whatever she wished. Instigated thus, she demands that Rama be deprived of the crown and Bharata installed as king. Rama is also to be sent into exile. A string of events now unfold bringing misery and harm. The story has its parallels even today.

Back-biting does nobody any good. The one who carries tales not only troubles another but also his own self. The listener instinctively feels that he is devious and two-faced. He senses that this person possesses two sides – one that he presents while talking to him and quite another behind his back. His action not only raises questions about his victim but also about his own self. He comes across as mean-spirited and unfair.

Yet another fall-out is that this causes the tattletale anxiety and stress. For all his bravado, the perpetrator feels debased and uncomfortable, unless he is extraordinarily thick-skinned. He is also afraid of being found out and then be made to pay for what he has done. He becomes ill at ease, suspicious and forfeits all peace of mind.

There is little doubt that the one who carries tales loses the trust and respect of those around him. As we all know, those who chatter to you will undoubtedly chatter of you!

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