Am I pure? In my relationships with others?  In my habits?  In my thought life?

For Jones, the third self-examination question is about sexual morality.  Personally, question number three makes me think about gossiping; in other words--are my conversations pure?  

I define gossiping as criticizing people who are not around to defend themselves.  That includes talking about the professor or POTUS or co-workers, anyone who is not present to explain their side of an argument.  I don’t want to initiate or be a part of those types of conversations.

Sometimes I change the subject.  Sometimes I say, “that sounds like someone in need of prayer.”  Sometimes I say “ah,” raise my eyebrows, give a weak smile, break-off eye contact, and get busy with some task.  Only once have I told someone I didn’t want to listen to their gossip, an approach which in retrospect I find too judgemental to repeat.

I find changing the subject to be the most difficult of the options.  I rack my brain trying to think of something to say, some point of commonality that can be discussed instead of the absent person.  I’m not sure why this is an area of struggle for me.  Why is it so hard to make polite conversation with a gossiper?