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What is gossip?
Whether we admit it or not, we have a fascination with gossip. This fascination is why talk shows and tabloids are so popular. We just can't get enough of the juicy details that leave our mouth hanging wide open with shock.
Even though we like gossip, we hardly ever call ourselves gossipers. In fact, we don’t really even like to use the word gossip. It’s such a strong word when all we are doing is:
- sharing the "truth"
- “discussing our feelings"
- "sharing our concerns”
- “giving a prayer request"
Webster's dictionary defines gossip as “casual or unconstrained conversation or reports about other people.”
"And withal they learn to be idle, wandering about from house to house; and not only idle, but tattlers also and busybodies, speaking things which they ought not." I Timothy 5:13, describes gossip as “meddling in other people’s business and talking about things they shouldn’t.”
So, when we talk about the details of someone’s life to another person, for no reason other than to talk about them, we are gossiping. Even if no harm is meant, it’s the confirmed truth, or even if someone is being plain idiotic, it is still gossip. And it’s wrong.
When we step back and think about how we are revealing embarrassing and shameful details about other people’s lives, details that do nothing but damage their reputation, we can see how gossip is wicked.
Gossip is never uplifting or encouraging, and we must realize that gossip, no matter what the situation, is wrong.
Ask God to put a deep love for people into your life. Allow Him to burden your heart for how your words can either hurt or encourage those around you. Ask Him to warn you when you get too close to that line of gossip.
Doesn’t gossip seem like it should be easy to avoid? Just don’t talk about other people. At times though, it’s hard to tell if what we are saying is indeed gossip. Let’s look at four scenarios:
- A conversation starts off with “I heard that . . .” This statement is a good indication that gossip is about to be spread. First, what was “heard” isn’t always truth. Second, more than likely, permission has not been given to share this information. Stay away from these conversations.
- You are listening to people gossiping, but not joining in. It’s easy to fool yourself into believing that you are not gossiping but just by listening, you are joining in. We take an active role in what we listen to. Gossipers need an audience, and you are giving them that. You have a choice to stay, to walk away, correct it, or change the subject. If you can’t stop listening, you need to evaluate why.
- Someone has hurt you, and you know for a fact that you are right and they are wrong. Venting would do you wonders. The problem is that venting conversations are not productive. It usually ends up being about why you are right and they are wrong. When you have been wronged, choose carefully who you talk to. Talk to someone who will be objective and help you heal. Don’t talk to people who will just take your side. If at all possible, talk to the person who offended you and try to work it out. Also, always bring your frustrations to God more than anyone else.
- Someone is involved in sin and you become aware of it or they make you aware of it. Of course, you want others to pray, but here is the deal, if the person doesn’t need professional help, there is no reason to tell anyone else. The person told you, you pray about it. You don’t need others to join in. If you need to confront them about a sin and you need to do it with another person, make sure you tell/ask someone that has spiritual wisdom.
Gossip is deceptive. It can fool us into thinking that we are justified.
There are times when we have to share what we have been told or what someone else has done, but those times are few and far between.
Stop and think twice before you share what someone has done, what you have heard, or been told.
The Root Of Gossip
What we have in our hearts is revealed through what we say. Our words paint a picture of what occupies our heart. A heart that is filled with bitterness, pride, anger, or unforgiveness will say and do things that reveal those feelings. If someone’s heart is filled with mercy, grace, and love that will also be revealed with their words. If our words are filled with gossip, so are our hearts. So what is in our hearts that causes us to gossip? One of the reasons we gossip is that we gain something from it. It gives us:
- the illusion of control, power and significance.
- we like the fact that people take notice of us when we have information they don’t.
- we like feeling good about ourselves when we hear that others aren’t perfect.
Another reason we gossip is because we have been hurt or frustrated. People hurt us. It doesn’t matter if it’s intentional or unintentional; we want to talk about it. There is no way around it. We choose to gossip because our hearts are full of selfishness, pride, hurt, jealousy, and bitterness. We are all fallen humans and all struggle with these things.
The problem is that we let our struggles motivate us to action. When our jealousy, unforgiveness, or bitterness motivates us to gossip it turns a struggle into a sin that is multiplied. When you find yourself gossiping, take some time to search your heart:
- What is driving you to gossip?
- Do you want to fit in?
- Do you need to feel powerful or justified?
- Do you have nothing else to say?
Something in your heart is overflowing out of your mouth. Be willing to let God show you where the desire/need to gossip stems from. When we understand what is motivating us to gossip, we are able to hold our tongue in much more powerful way.
The Effects Of Gossip
Gossip draws us in. It is quickly told, heard, spread and, worst of all, quickly believed. Proverbs warns us that gossip sinks its teeth into our hearts and minds and begins to hurts us, along with those around us. Unfortunately, we have made gossip a part of our everyday entertainment.
Overtime, gossip becomes a habit that is unconsciously repeated on a regular basis. It becomes so disguised that we don’t even recognize it, nor do we see the destructive spiritual, emotional, and relational wake it leaves behind. Part of that wake involves a person’s reputation.
Gossip, no matter how innocent, will affect how others view the person being gossiped about. Labels will be placed on the person and their character will be tarnished. Gossip leaves no room for someone to derive their own perception of a person based on time and relationship.
This is especially true if you are in a leadership position. People want to please and trust you and what you say will usually become truth and be repeated. Gossip doesn’t only affect the person being gossiped about, it affects the person listening. The ones listening are now tempted to label and to pass the gossip on. It also tempts the listener to crave more gossip. All gossip plants a seed in our mind.
The next time you hear a negative thing about that person, the seed grows, and your view of that person is even more distorted. Don’t fool yourself into believing that gossip doesn’t affect you. Gossip also affects the gossiper. When someone gossips, they open their heart up for Satan to grab ahold and harden their heart to the truth and to stop them from living a life of freedom. They are relying on gossip to make them feel good instead of God’s truth. Lastly, gossip not only damages individual people, it damages relationships.
Not many friendships can endure gossip. When gossip is involved, trust is broken. When push comes to shove, we don’t know if we can trust them to not gossip about us. Gossip infects everyone’s hearts, bringing everyone involved to a place where trust is broken and truth is obscured. Gossip affects the core of who we are and the filter through which we see others. We have to stop gossip before it draws us in and becomes our truth. We have to stop it before it ruins lives and relationships.
Gossip is sin, and, like all sin, we are prone to it and it draws us in. For that reason alone trying to stop gossip in your life is hard. At least it’s hard for me! For weeks I had been writing and studying what God has to say about gossip and yet I found myself gossiping with a friend. “He should untuck his shirt” and “How could he be so rude” were a few of our comments. Yes, we could have said a lot worse things, but gossip is gossip no matter how small or big we think it is. Those comments would have hurt those people if they had heard us say them.
Our words are to be uplifting and encouraging, and our words were neither. Gossip is a struggle for all of us. So how do we stop it? We must realize that gossip starts small and then grows. It starts with talking about people’s clothes and then, when you are comfortable with that level of gossip, you move to talking about people’s actions and character. It also grows from talking to a trusted friend to a larger circle of people. No gossip is innocent, no matter how silly it may sound. It’s hurtful and never useful!
Why do we need to talk about his shirt to begin with? Does it really matter in the overall plan of glorifying God? Does it stop God’s truth from being spread? Of course not! We have to stop all gossip. To start erasing gossip from your life, you must pay attention to what God’s word says about gossip. When there is an understanding, your capability to recognize gossip grows. God’s truth allows you to become consciously aware of the comments you make in regards to other people.
In the beginning you may have a hard time identifying or even admitting that what you are saying is gossip. Take it one step at a time. When you start, if you need to, don’t even try to decide if it’s gossip, just evaluate what was said. Was the comment negative or positive? Was it necessary or did you just want to share the information? Only by becoming more aware of what you are saying will you be able to determine if it’s gossip and then stop it.
Also, in order to stop gossip, you have to be willing to deal with the root of the problem. If you want a weed to go away completely, you have to tear it up by its roots. Breaking the habit of gossip is intentional and takes time. Don’t give up! God cares what comes out of your mouth, and you need to care too. Begin avoiding gossip at all costs so that your heart, reputation and relationships stay intact.
Freedom From Gossip
Freedom is the cry of our hearts. We want to be free from the weight of sin and to live a life without the burdens that steal, kill and destroy our peace. Part of living a life of freedom means breaking free from the need and desire to gossip. When we allow God to empower us to stop gossiping, the result is freedom.
This freedom can revolutionize our lives. You see gossip holds us captive in several ways. It makes us feel like we have to do it to fit in. It makes us feel like we don’t have anything to say without it. It also gets us into trouble and we have to do damage control when people find out we have gossiped. It holds us captive! But, it doesn’t have to. If we step away from the habit and sin of gossip, there is a life of freedom waiting for us. This freedom moves us from small talk to deeper, God-filled conversations. It allows us to evaluate, with no guilt, where we are at with God instead of deflecting and talking about others faults. It gives us the ability to appreciate God’s children instead of tearing them down. It gives way to an increased amount of wisdom and righteousness.
I urge you today to stop gossiping. You don’t need it! Push through the awkwardness of not gossiping and let Christ reveal Himself to you. He will replace the gossip with a freedom that you truly can’t live without!
More verses about gossiping:
Proverbs 11:13 - A talebearer revealeth secrets: but he that is of a faithful spirit concealeth the matter.
Proverbs 13:3 - He that keepeth his mouth keepeth his life: but he that openeth wide his lips shall have destruction.
Proverbs 15:28 - The heart of the righteous studieth to answer: but the mouth of the wicked poureth out evil things.
Proverbs 16:28 - A froward man soweth strife: and a whisperer separateth chief friends.
Proverbs 18:8 - The words of a talebearer are as wounds, and they go down into the innermost parts of the belly.
Proverbs 20:19 - He that goeth about as a talebearer revealeth secrets: therefore meddle not with him that flattereth with his lips.
Proverbs 21:23 - He that goeth about as a talebearer revealeth secrets: therefore meddle not with him that flattereth with his lips.
Proverbs 26:20-22 - Where no wood is, there the fire goeth out: so where there is no talebearer, the strife ceaseth. As coals are to burning coals, and wood to fire; so is a contentious man to kindle strife. The words of a talebearer are as wounds, and they go down into the innermost parts of the belly.