The Devastation of Rumors

The whispers when a colleague is fired. The looks of communication when a young woman mentions weight gain. The choosing of sides in a friend’s divorce.

It’s difficult not to become involved in gossip. After all, people like gossip and interesting bits of information: you only have to look at the number of celebrity-focused publications to realize that we have a huge appetite for discussing other people’s lives. However, this type of interaction is harmful and costly. It wastes time, damages reputations, promotes divisiveness, creates anxiety, and destroys families.

So why do people start and spread rumors? Much of it has to do with our need to make sense of what’s happening around us. To understand what’s going on, people talk to one-another. And, together, they fill in the holes in the story with a little bit of fact – and a lot of guesswork. This new story spreads, with bits and pieces added along the way, until you have an out-of-control rumor spreading. When you add in a person spreading rumors who has a personal agenda, it becomes even worse.

Rumors often grow because people like to be “in the know.” Knowledge is power, and that’s why the people with the least amount of power can often be the ones to start and spread rumors. It can make them feel important if they’re seen to know things that others don’t. This knowledge is at the center of why and how rumors start and spread. Insufficient knowledge or incomplete information are often to blame.

Some rumors take on a more personal tone. These are generally what we think of as gossip. Gossip tends to be related to interpersonal relationships, and is often malicious in nature. It can get out of control quickly, and should be addressed promptly – before it leads to harassment or bullying . Rumors can spread quickly, and they can often change and grow far beyond the small bit of truth that caused them to start.

Unfortunately, rumors can then become a self- perpetuating cycle of lies. You hear a rumor that a person drinks too much. When you next see her, she is distracted, clumsy, and socially inept. You ascribe her behavior to having had too much to drink yet again. Yet, it could be that she is ill, or tired, or stressed, or…. Anything she does or say will be misconstrued to fit a certain perception and truth will be sacrificed. After a while, we can even come to believe our distortions.

Charles Stanley said:

“God hates gossip. He wants our speech to be pleasing to Him. He certainly doesn’t consider idle talk or mean-spirited words pleasant as stated in Colossians 3:8.

Sadly, gossip is practiced so freely that even some believers participate and try to justify their chatter. But hearsay has no place in a Christian’s life. Romans 1 contains one of the Bible’s longest lists of sins. The book’s author, the apostle Paul, is reminding believers that God has revealed Himself to all mankind. Those who reject Him and chase after idols are turned over to their evil worship and the immoral practices that go with serving self.

Gossip appears in the middle of the list. God despises it because malicious talk destroys lives whether the stories are true or false. The person who is targeted by the rumor often loses the respect of those who listen to it. Hurt feelings may not be the only negative effect. A job or relationship could be lost as well.

Those spreading tales also face destructive consequences. People who refuse to control the tongue reveal evil motives or, at the very least, lack of discipline. As a result, believers and unbelievers will often avoid such untrustworthy individuals. For a Christian who spreads rumors, there’s potential for even worse damage, in that such actions can harm fellowship with the Lord. Animosity toward another person and intimacy with God can’t coexist in the same heart.

Gossip achieves no good in anyone’s life, which is why the Lord warns against it. Instead, our words should build up, comfort, and encourage others.”

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