When I was senior in college my Wesley Foundation worked through Reuben Job's book Three Simple Rules. It's based on John Wesley's General Rules for Methodists. Now, Job modifies the name of the last one, but I'll stick with the originals: Do no harm, do good works, and attend to all the ordinances of God. Job's book is broken into chapters on the rules.
The first chapter is on doing no harm. Now, the General Rules are simply worded rules and are simple concepts. I've known them since I was a senior in high school when I went to annual conference and Bishop Watson quizzed the Conference. However, thinking about what they mean is hard. Moment by moment saying "Is this doing harm?" In his book, Job talks about doing harm and gives not exactly concrete examples but rather ways that doing harm is about our relationships and all of our personhood.
I read the first chapter and have been working with it some in the back of my head. I haven't moved on to the next chapter. I'd just written a paper on the Spiritual Exercises of Ignatius of Loyola, so the idea of spending time sitting with things was fresh in my head. And as I've gone day to day with that in my head I've realized that I'm a snarky gossip. I don't say things to people's faces, but I'm not the nicest person sometimes. And the thoughts in my head or shared out loud affect the way I encounter the people I'm talking about.
When I dwell on the negative about people that's what I notice the most when I'm with them. I'm going to reread "Do No Harm" tonight and I think I'll start moving into "Do Good" next week and sit with it for a few weeks. Doing harm goes beyond gossiping to stewardship of time, talent, and treasure, and to all kinds of things. I strongly recommend the book for people looking for ways to think about how their ongoing discipleship could grow.