Most of us know what gossip is… when it is about us. However, we sometimes have difficulty identifying it when we are in a conversation. A very informal definition of gossip might be a casual conversation about others which may involve details that are not confirmed as true. Often people gossip simply because they don’t know what else to say; they need to fill an awkward silence. Gossip is a problem in the workplace, in the church, and, yes, even in families.
Gossip is a divider of people, of co-workers, of friends, of family. Proverbs 16:28, A froward man soweth strife: and a whisperer separateth chief friends. Proverbs 17:9, He that covereth a transgression seeketh love; but he that repeateth a matter separateth very friends.
Gossip hurts. Gossip causes a physical and emotional response in the victim. Gossip can affect people’s reputations, their jobs and livelihoods, and their relationships. Proverbs 18:8 and 26:22, The words of a talebearer are as wounds, and they go down into the innermost parts of the belly.
A gossip is notorious for denying talking about people or spreading rumors. It is very difficult to determine the originator of a rumor or false statement. Why? Because they make sure to be as sweet, loving, and concerned as can be to deflect attention away from them. Proverbs 20:19, He that goeth about as a talebearer revealeth secrets: therefore meddle not with him that flattereth with his lips.
As they say, “It takes two to tango.” Well, it takes two to gossip as well – the teller and the hearer. How do you protect yourself from being an unknowing gossip?
- Guard your own conversation. It is in idle chit-chat where most gossip occurs. Those lulls in conversation do not need to be filled with “details.” If the conversation is over, either change the subject or move on. A good rule of thumb to follow: if the comments are not positive and uplifting, or the person being spoken about is not present, it shouldn’t be said. Matthew 12:36, But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment.
- Do not speculate. “Why wasn’t Gail at the ladies meeting?” “Well, you know her sister is in town and she is in some kind of trouble…. She probably had to help her.” Silly, isn’t it? But, it happens all the time. A simple, “I don’t know,” in response would suffice. Proverbs 17:4, A wicked doer giveth heed to false lips; and a liar giveth ear to a naughty tongue.
- Stop the conversation by saying, “I don’t need to know.” In other words, you are telling the gossiper that you want no part of the conversation. A few times of hearing this phrase will assure you of being kept out of “the loop.” Proverbs 26:20, Where no wood is, there the fire goeth out: so where there is no talebearer, the strife ceaseth.
- Stop the conversation with praise and good words. If you are in a group where the phrase “I don’t need to know” may not be able to be used, you can deflect the gossip by speaking words of praise and good words about the person. “Why, I just can’t believe that about Sam. Yesterday, he was so nice to help me with the bags I was bringing into the building.”
- Go to the person being talked about or whom the rumor may adversely affect. We have seen several situations that if the hearers of the rumors had gone to the victim immediately several church blow ups would have been avoided. After the damage had been done, several went to the victims, apologized, and said they thought the victim had known. Many times if this was done immediately much hurt, anger, bitterness, and false statements would be avoided. As Barney Fife says, “Nip it! Nip it in the bud!” Matthew 18:15-17, Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother. 16 But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. 17 And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican. If someone comes to you with a story about another, offer to go with him or her to the victim to find out the truth. More likely than not, the gossiper will not want to do so. Follow up on gossip and rumors. If someone comes to you with gossip, go to the person anyway. Often the victim is the last to know about what is being said. This simple act will do wonders for the victim.
- Accept that you do not need to know (or tell) all the details. Too often a “prayer request” turns into gossip. Those in ministry (full-time, part-time, and lay workers) often find themselves in situations where they are privy to many details. It is not your job to disseminate those details to others. If the person you are speaking to 1) is not part of the situation directly, or 2) is not able to help resolve the situation (authority figure), then do not repeat it to them. As for a “prayer request”, it is best to keep prayer requests as general as possible; God knows the details. Proverbs 11:13, A talebearer revealeth secrets: but he that is of a faithful spirit concealeth the matter.
- Remember, a talebearer is judged by God. Leviticus 19:16, Thou shalt not go up and down as a talebearer among thy people: neither shalt thou stand against the blood of thy neighbour; I am the Lord.
Today, society winks at gossip; we consider it part of our social discourse. In fact, some believe that gossip helps to keep society “in check.” But God doesn’t “wink” at gossip. Three of the seven things listed as abominations in Proverbs 6 deal with the tongue. God doesn’t “dislike” gossip… He HATES it. Oh that we would have His heart on this matter.
Proverbs 6:16-19, These six things doth the Lord hate: yea, seven are an abomination unto him: 17 A proud look, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, 18 An heart that deviseth wicked imaginations, feet that be swift in running to mischief, 19 A false witness that speaketh lies, and he that soweth discord among brethren.
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