As I’m sure everyone has noticed, there is such a thing in our culture today as ‘acceptable sins,’ and there are many of them: white lies, being judgmental, discontent/jealousy, complaining, selfishness, etc.
And, what is possibly the hardest one for me right now, gossip.
We all do it, men and women. Just look at supermarket tabloids. Spend ten minutes on facebook. Go to a prayer meeting. Gossip is everywhere.
The Bible has a few choice things to say about gossip (for a nice, long list go here). But you don’t even have to go digging for specific verses to know that it’s wrong; even non-Christians have heard Thumper the bunny say that ‘If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.’
But it is hard! I struggle with gossip on practically a daily basis. I’m not sure exactly what it is about juicy gossip that gets people so excited. But I know that for me personally, the question ‘Did you hear what happened?’ gets me all kinds of eager.
I’ve tried many a time to kick the habit, especially recently as it’s been getting worse. The more time I spend away from my parents and siblings the more hungry I am for news about what’s going on in their lives.
There is nothing wrong with this. I love them and care about them, so of course I want to know what they’ve been up to.
But it seems like I can’t help myself from asking questions that will lead to slightly juicier conversations.
At first, I shrugged it off under the excuses of wanting to ‘know how I could help,’ ‘asking for and sharing prayer requests,’ or ‘offering advice.’
The trouble is, all those things can be good things in proper context. So how do I know when gossip is gossip?
I think I’ve come up with a general rule of thumb: If I am saying something about someone that I wouldn’t say to them, then I’m gossiping.
This does leave open the loophole of ‘of course I’d say that to them… They just aren’t here right now.’
The question then is, why am I saying to someone else what I should be saying to the person involved?
Gossip isn’t nice. Even if all the words are kind and there are plenty of sweet compliments sprinkled in there, the bottom line is that we are disagreeing with someone, but instead of taking it to them, we are taking it to almost anyone else.
Whether that person has just hurt us, fought with is, or (as is often the case) has done something that has nothing to do with us, there are only two people we should talk to about it: that person and God.
I think that a part of the problem is the internet, social networks, texting, etc. have de-humanized us and weakened our confrontation skills. We can yell at people from behind our ‘profiles’ the same way we can yell at other cars.
Being honest, how much of what we say about people would we actually feel comfortable saying to them, face to face?
So how do I go about breaking the habit? I’m still working on it.
I have decided on two first steps though:
- I’m not going to listen to any more gossip. I know from personal experience how good it can feel to vent and I certainly want to be there for my loved ones when they’re upset. But from what I’ve seen, venting doesn’t really get us anywhere. It fans the flames, gets the vent-er more entrenched in their position, and doesn’t resolve the conflict.
- I’m going to be honest with people. To their face, whenever possible. I’m going to be loving and respectful (by the grace of God), certainly, but I’m also going to go to the person I have an issue with, with the issue.
I’m sure I’m going to mess up a lot, but this is an area that God has really been conviction me over and I’ve got to start somewhere.
How ‘bout you? Do you have an issue with gossip? Better yet, do you have any advice or helpful hints?
I’d love to hear them!