Gossip and backbiting are often thought of as pretty low down the scale of social ills but I think this view underestimates the real spiritual damage caused by this activity. In its minor form it causes hurt and division and in its extreme form it can destroy reputations and lives. I think these are some of the reasons that Bahá’u’lláh teaches us in his writings that the seeker of God
…should also regard backbiting as grievous error, and keep himself aloof from its dominion, inasmuch as backbiting quencheth the light of the heart, and extinguisheth the life of the soul. He should be content with little, and be freed from all inordinate desire. He should treasure the companionship of those that have renounced the world, and regard avoidance of boastful and worldly people a precious benefit.
One of the notable aspects of this teaching is how it highlights the spiritual damage done to those who backbite not just to those who are its victims.
Bahá’u’lláh also describes how denigrating others is often used as a way of avoiding dealing with our own shortcomings.
O SON OF BEING! How couldst thou forget thine own faults and busy thyself with the faults of others? Whoso doeth this is accursed of Me.
O SON OF MAN! Breathe not the sins of others so long as thou art thyself a sinner. Shouldst thou transgress this command, accursed wouldst thou be, and to this I bear witness.