Monday, February 11, 2019

How Gossip Can Wreak Havoc

We may think saying things about another person that we have no knowledge of is harmless, but God knew what he was talking about when he lumped gossip with murder (Proverbs 6:16-19). A reckless tongue can do a world of damage and destroy relationships (James 3). In his letter to the Romans, Paul equates gossipers with “slanderers, God-haters” (Rom 1:30) and warns the Corinthians not to engage in “quarreling, jealousy, anger, selfishness, slander, gossip, conceit, and disorder” (2 Corinthians 12:20). As a refresher, gossip is defined as casual or unconstrained conversation or reports about other people, typically involving details that are not confirmed as being true. Gossip is the enemy hiding in plain sight.

Consider this real-life example: Person A called Person B and insisted that something about Person C was right. Person B knew Person C and knew that Person A was mistaken but A's insistence planted doubt in B. Person B gets sucked into this conversation and called Person C to remove any lingering doubts. After speaking with Person C, Person B then called Person A back confirming that what Person A said was wrong. It was only at this point that Person A changed her story and apologized to Person B. Person A has had no direct interaction with Person C, and C has no idea who A is.

What was Person A's motive? Why was Person A so concerned about Person C's life? Why did she find it necessary to contact Person B? Why didn't Person B just ignore Person A or challenge her for her source of information?  Person B though well-meaning was baited by Person A. How do you think Person C felt when she received that call?

We often think of gossip as something said in confidence and then shared with others who were not concerned about it. But we see that gossip is reckless, irresponsible communication with no regard for the feelings of those affected. When we look at the words for gossip in scripture, we see many nuanced meanings all with the same negative connotation. One of the biblical words used means “a whisperer” (Romans 1:30, 2 Corinthians 12:20) which points to the intimate nature of the material shared. Another word means “busybodies” (2 Thessalonians 3:11; 1 Timothy. 5:13). Another word means to meddle in business which doesn’t pertain to you (1 Peter. 4:15). Another word comes from a verb meaning “to babble,” suggesting that gossip is empty, pointless talk, often not completely factual (1 Timothy 5:13). Another word, translated “malicious gossips” (1 Timothy 3:11, Titus 2:3) is the same word that is most often translated “devil.” It comes from a compound word meaning to throw something against someone. It ought to scare us to realize that when we gossip, we enter into the very nature of the devil! (Source: Bible.org)

In the real-life example above I was Person C; after receiving that phone call, I was a bit ticked off. As I prayed and explored my feelings, it led to this post. But because none of us are perfect, they were times when I was less mature that I might have acted like Person A or Person B. Because I get no thrill about hearing ill of others or fabrications, I nip this in the bud when I recognize it. One question that stops gossip in its tracks is asking the person who shared something with me, "Why are you telling me this?" If it involves a third party, suggest that they speak to that person directly. If that's impossible perhaps it's an indicator that they're not minding their own business and need to work on their lives instead of others. It's easy to become a busybody when we are dissatisfied with our lives. Work out your dissatisfaction without harming anyone. 

Not being a party to gossip does not take the excitement out of life; on the contrary, there are lots of other things to talk about! We can debate ideas, discourse on theology, dialogue on current events. We don't have to speak things of others that we can't verify.


Gossip is not the domain of women only; men gossip also. They may do it at the barbershop, the bar, at work, or over a game of spades. Everyone is prone to speaking irresponsibly (James 3). If you're unsure as to if you should be passing any information along, before you utter a word, check your motives and use Philippians 4:8 as your guide. I want my speech to be edifying, so I'm careful with my words and if it's not my story to tell I won't share it. The only story I'll tell is the story of Jesus.

Let's confront, confess and repent of gossip in our lives. Let's rely on God's wisdom to direct our words and thoughts. Then let's refuse to be a party to gossip. Let's determine to be truthful and honest in our conversation for the betterment of all.



My son, if sinners entice you, do not give in to them. — Proverbs 1:10


As surely as a north wind brings rain, so a gossiping tongue causes anger! Proverbs 25:23


People may be right in their own eyes, but the Lord examines their heart. Proverbs 21:2


A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart, and an evil person produces evil things from the treasury of an evil heart. What you say flows from what is in your heart. 
Luke 6:45


Prayer: Dear Lord, help us to guard our hearts so that the words we speak bring honor and glory to you. Amen.


What about you - how do you handle gossip? Do you initiate gossip or are you often a victim of it? How do you rebound, as a victim or an initiator?

--Nylse

The first image is a print by American artist Elizabeth Catlett (1915-2012)

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11 comments:

  1. Very good article. Gossip can kill relationships and break the unity that should always be cultivated/nurtured in the Body of Christ. Very important subject and advice. Thanks for sharing!

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  2. I always tell myself if I think or know I am being gossiped about or untruths are told that it is
    between me and God he knows the truth to heck with the gossipers loved this article!!!!

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  3. Gossip really is destructive. I love your question to stop gossip before it gets too far: "Why are you telling me this?" These are great thoughts to uplift and self-check. Thank you for sharing at #heartandsoullinkup this week! Come share something again next Monday. :)

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  4. Gossip is such a horrible thing but it's so easy to fall into. I loved your Biblical insights on the topic. It's true, the best thing is to shut gossip down as soon as it starts.

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  5. This is really good advice! The older I get, the easier I find it to just say no to this sin. Then again, my kids are in elementary school, and honestly, hearing them prattle on along the lines of the Person A-B-C story you told here (which they do at least daily, with the latest drama at school) is enough to reinforce the desire to NOT participate in gossip! So in this regard I am blessed! #heartandsoullinkup

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  6. Hi Nylse, Wow. When God grouped gossip in with murder, that really put it in perspective very quickly. I watch my tongue, and try to never say a bad word about others, because it gives the enemy a foothold. Once that tongue is loose, watch out! You are not only hurting someone else who can't defend themselves, but you hurt yourself as it takes your mood down a darker path. Thanks for sharing! #heartandsoullinkup

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  7. This was wow ... just wow. My mom was huge on not allowing any gossip in our house. She said that our tongues should only speak truth and kindness. As I've gotten older that continues to remain a big component of how I live life. Often time gossip isn't meant to lift anyone up. It's to make another person feel small. What is the point of that? They say hurt people hurt people and it couldn't be more true. There's so much that I have to deal within my own life ... that to be honest I don't have time to worry about another person's business.

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  8. I watch that too, even trying to warn someone about another person's behavior, and they turn around and talk right back to them, and I am in the middle.It takes wisdom.

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  9. With the event of social media, gossip is even easier to spread. Thank you for this reminder. So sorry to read about your experience as "Person C".

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  10. Yes, there are so many other things to talk about than gossip! Important too, to be a safe person for others to share struggles knowing their words are safe with you.

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  11. Ugh, we do make a mess when we carry tales. And I'm sorry you've had to be impacted personally by the evil of gossip. May we always remember that the "stories" we tell are about real people.

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