Gossip

Proverbs 26:20-26 Where there is no wood, the fire goes out; and where there is no talebearer, strife ceases.  As charcoal is to burning coals, and wood to fire, so is a contentious man to kindle strife.  The words of a talebearer are like tasty trifles, and they go down into the inmost body.  Fervent lips with a wicked heart are like earthenware covered with silver dross.  He who hates, disguises it with his lips, and lays up deceit within himself; when he speaks kindly, do not believe him, for there are seven abominations in his heart;  though his hatred is covered by deceit, his wickedness will be revealed before the assembly.

This morning in church, I was reminded of how we are to put off gossip.  Gossip is something that most everyone engages in at one time or another.  It doesn’t just affect the one speaking it, but also the one hearing it and the one who is the topic of conversation.  We can begin gossiping without much thought.  It can happen under the guise of truthful information, or even as a misguided prayer request.  But even though it can creep into our conversation so easily, it is not taken lightly by God and it is sin. 

Gossip typically involves rumors, opinions, or confidential information.  Gossip doesn’t have to be lies or false information.  Gossip can also be disguised as truth.  Gossip, by its very nature, desires to exploit the sensational aspects of someone’s personal issues.  It’s easy to know if gossip is happening if you pay attention.  It usually takes place in a lowered tone among a select group of people.   Remember that listening will encourage the gossiper to continue gossiping.

There are several reasons why people gossip or listen to gossip.  Having the “inside information” is one way of gaining attention for those who are seeking it.  Those who listen may feel flattered by being included in the select group of people who are gossiping about the inside information.  There are some people who just like to fan the flames of contention.  Some people are very insecure and attempt to build themselves up by putting others down.  Feelings of envy can lead one to gossip as can boredom.

How should we respond to gossip?  First, we can certainly discourage it by stating such things as: “Have you checked out the facts?”  I don’t really pay much attention to the grapevine.”  “Things can get misunderstood by people outside of those involved.”  Body language can also be helpful.. Instead of leaning forward and closer, step slightly away which will discourage confidences.  Cross your arms and turn slightly to the side.  This will give the impression that you are closed off to the information.  If you find you are the subject of gossip, take action and go to the source of the gossip and set the record straight with the appropriate truthful information.  Many gossipers will deny ever saying anything but will usually stop once they know they’ve been identified as the source.   Of course, if your personal integrity, credibility, job, or Christian witness are not in jeopardy, ignoring it is a good option as well.

3 John 9-10 describes a gossiper.  John writes: “I wrote to the church, but Diotrephes, who loves to have preeminence among them, does not receive us.  Therefore, if I come, I will call to mind his deeds  which he does, prating against us with malicious words.  And not content with that, he himself does not receive the brethren, and forbids those who wish to, putting them out of the church.” Diotrephes had apparently become a leader in the church, but he likes his position a bit too much.  He loved having “preeminence” according to John and so he felt threatened by anyone else.  Therefore he refused to give hospitality to traveling ministers and evangelists and forbade anyone else from doing so also.  He also engaged in malicious gossip.  He spoke evil of John and the other ministers of the gospel but he was lying.  His words were causing division among the believers and had to be stopped.  Gossip is compared in scripture as a wildfire.  Wildfires leave destruction everywhere they go.  The next time we see or hear a spark of gossip, we should stomp it out completely.  The only sparks we should pass on are the sparks of God’s love.

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7 thoughts on “Gossip

  1. RichardD says:

    But Diotrophes, who loves to have preeminence among them, does not receive us.

    This has always seemed like an interesting verse to me. It seems as if Paul is gossiping–at least according to our current definition of gossiping. Could it be that this was obvious to all, so it was all right to say it publicly?

    I don’t know the answer to this, but it has always been interesting to me.

    Thanks for this post. It is a good reminder. And this is probably one of my greatest areas of problem.

  2. Sandy says:

    Hi Richard,
    Good thoughts. I kind of thought it was because the believers were all participating with Diotrophes by listening to him and giving him the preeminience he liked so well. Since John was addressing all involved in the gossip, it would then not be gossip. Of course, my speculation. FWIW. 🙂

  3. Lynn says:

    I think for those who have escaped Gothard’s definition of gossip (sharing information about others who are not part of the problem nor part of the solution), and also for those who have escaped the “can’t talk” rule of spiritually abusive systems, that we need this reminder.

    That being said, it is OK to speak up about negative situations with other people. I think, for me, there are “warning bells.” If I find I’m just talking for the sinful fun of it, that is a problem. If I’m trying to weigh options as to what to do, or am trying to figure out what the problem really is, or if I should talk to someone, I’m not.

    As an example, I was reading the comments, and I laughed, because I remembered catching someone in speaking very negatively about me in very certain terms, to Corrie. This person said I had a very unhealthy “incestuous, feed on each other, gossiping blog.”

    Corrie referred me to the email she received from this woman, so I undertook to write her privately. I asked some questions about her accusations and asked her how what I did constituted gossip. She became vicious and accusatory to me, and told me to not write any more or she would block my email address.

    So, without identifying her name or internet ID, I wrote a blog article about it. And she commented on it in under an anonymous ID, claiming that I was gossiping for just talking about this on my blog.

    I wasn’t impressed by her logic.

    What I mean is, I heard she was gossiping about me, so I went to her privately, and was slammed and shut out, so I talked about it on my blog, and am accused of gossiping more!

    I’m serious about the fact that I decided to write a blog article about it. What this woman did was a classic case of table turning, which is a common tactic of abusive people, and there are very sensitive people in this world who might read what I wrote, learn from it, and perhaps might learn to not be taken in by such tactics as what I was treated to.

  4. Sandy says:

    Lynn,
    Thank you for that reminder. There is a difference between gossip and warnings. There are many instances in the New Testament where the apostles write negatively about certain people and their teachings. I do not see this as gossip, but rather clear practical teachings for us. The motivation is always important which you pointed out so clearly in your comment.
    Is it to tear down a person ir is it to warn others of dangerous teachings and practices?

    BTW, I don’t think I’ve ever considered your blog “gossipy.” 🙂

  5. RichardD says:

    The false definition of gossip currently being promulgated by some bloggers who don’t like debate needs to be rejected by everyone. Debate is not and has never been gossip. If the debate is done in the same forum as the initial thesis was given (on the internet), it may seem “gossipy” given the public nature of the discussion. But if that public (world-wide) forum is where the initial thesis was laid out, it is fully appropriate to debate that thesis in the same forum (the internet, blogs, etc.).

  6. Lynn says:

    If the debate is done in the same forum as the initial thesis was given (on the internet), it may seem “gossipy” given the public nature of the discussion. But if that public (world-wide) forum is where the initial thesis was laid out, it is fully appropriate to debate that thesis in the same forum (the internet, blogs, etc.).

    And Richard, I and others were commenting on what was already on the internet, for the whole world to see, which is what sparked this private accusation to Corrie, about me.

    That said, I do need to heed the warning to avoid true gossip. I think Sandy painted a good inward picture of how we are feeling and what we are motivated by when we engage in talk that is wrong. And I am guilty of it.

  7. Corrie says:

    Good post, Sandy. It is sometimes hard to discern what is gossip and what is not, so I believe that this is a much-needed discussion.

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