Why gossip & engage in casual, unconstrained chat about other people, typically involving hearsay & unconfirmed details? What needs do we meet by spreading such tittle-tattle, rumours, whispers, tales & stories? Is it a lack of contentment, excitement or esteem in our lives, and the chance to feel better about ourselves at another’s expense? Perhaps the need to influence, manipulate & control?
And we can become skilled & creative at excusing our undermining behaviour, “I tell you this, purely for prayer!” “I think the world of Jim & June, but you’ll never believe…!” Whatever the personal needs we try to meet through gossip or its justification, the damage it can cause to both self & the subject of gossip can be fatal & far-reaching.
Kin Hubbard said, “Gossip is vice enjoyed vicariously – the sweet subtle satisfaction without the risk.” But remember the Spanish proverb, “Whoever gossips to you will gossip about you.”Bierce warned, “Speak when you are angry, and you’ll make the best speech you’ll ever regret.”We’re given 2 ears & only 1 tongue for good reason!
“Remember, it only takes a spark to set off a forest fire. A careless or wrongly placed word out of your mouth can do that. By our speech we can ruin the world, turn harmony to chaos, throw mud on a reputation, send the whole world up in smoke and go up in smoke with it, smoke right from the pit of hell… With our tongues we bless God our Father; with the same tongues we curse the very men and women he made in his image. Curses and blessings out of the same mouth!
My friends, this can’t go on. A spring doesn’t gush fresh water one day and brackish the next, does it? Apple trees don’t bear strawberries, do they? Raspberry bushes don’t bear apples, do they? You’re not going to dip into a polluted mud hole and get a cup of clear, cool water, are you?”(James 3:5-12 / MSG) If we claim God as our Saviour & Source we must be consistent.
Robust debate & disagreement can be healthy, but it grieves me when Christians talk ill of those they violently disagree with & demean an adversary’s character (sullying their own soul in the process). And it’s hard to extract oneself from a gossiping group, or change the subject, without appearing ‘holier-than-thou’. One clever quip, when someone speaks ill of Mrs May or another (perhaps closer to home) is to say, “That’s interesting because Mrs May speaks very highly of you!” A helpful question to ask someone spilling gossip is to ask, “Why are you telling me / us this?”It can pull someone up short & give permission to change the subject or allow you to exit.
A helpful guard for our ‘gabbing’ is:
THINK! Is it:
Rudyard Kipling had it right, “I always prefer to believe the best of everybody, it saves so much trouble.”As St Paul said, “Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.”(Philippians 4:8 / NIV) ‘Gossip’, let’s just ‘Stop It!’