The word gossip comes from God and sib, and was a term used for godparents. It was good to have people who loved you and cared about you. Only later did it come to mean a person who delights in negative talk about others.
This is such a major problem with humans, that the Bible addresses it:
Do not go about spreading slander among your people. Leviticus 19:16 NIV
But I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken. For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned. Matthew 12:36, 37 NIV
Talking about others is not a bad thing. Imagine how strange life would be if we never talked about anyone else. Suppose you were introduced to someone who was well known by your friend, and this other person looked at you and said, “Hello, who are you? I’ve never heard anything about you.”
The problem with gossip, apart from its possible damage to the reputation of others, is what it does to our own state of mind. If you find yourself talking in a negative way about someone else, you might find it interesting to observe the quality of your feelings at the time.
Maurice Nicholl compared our inner thoughts to a cave. In the darkness of our own imagination, we can mistreat them. He writes:
In yourself everyone is helpless. You can, as it were, drag a person into the cave of yourself and do what you like with her or him. Nicholl, p. 176
This is the other side of the well-known Golden Rule from the Sermon on the Mount.
So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets Matthew 7:12 NIV
Swedenborg reinforces the idea that people who are devoid of love for others can be quite judgmental. On the other hand: Those who are guided by kindness . . . hardly even notice evil in another but pay attention instead to everything good and true in the person. When they do find anything bad or false, they put a good interpretation on it. This is a characteristic of all angels – one they acquire from the Lord, who bends everything toward good. Swedenborg – Secrets of Heaven #1079.
The purpose of this task is to encourage us to be conscious, when talking about others, of the need to be kind and thoughtful.