A few weeks ago I invited you along on my journey into the dangerous territory of gossip. Since then, I have dove into a book I ordered and have found some answers to the questions I presented in my initial post. Today I start unpacking what I’ve discovered through my reading…
(Much of this is summarized or quoted from the book with a little of my own thoughts here and there).
“Gossip is something that we all experience. No one is safe from its tantalizing lure. No one is safe from its poisonous effects.” –Matthew Mitchell
If nobody is safe, then the battle is everyone’s.
Facebook. Twitter. Magazines. Conversations. Work. Home. School.
Proof that gossip is everywhere.
I’ve never heard a sermon on gossip, but I see it in the Bible, and I know it is wrong.
What is gossip? What makes it wrong?
I’m confused on what gossip is and what it is not, because it is hard to define.
If we are going to battle, we must first know our enemy.
In his book, “Resisting Gossip: Winning the War of the Wagging Tongue,” Matthew Mitchell offers a one-sentence summary of the Bible’s teaching on gossip:
“Sinful gossip is bearing bad news behind someone’s back out of a bad heart.”
Let’s take a look at the first part of the definition…
What is “bearing bad news”?
“…sharing, communicating and transmitting stories. These stories flow in both directions: talking and listening…It is often sharing someone else’s secret…It is a betrayal by talking…Sometimes just receiving that spicy piece of gossip without stopping the conversation (or, at least, saying something) is sinful—almost as sinful as speaking it.”
And what is considered to be “bad news”?
“The content of sinful gossip is never neutral.”
Mitchell groups bad news into three categories:
- Bad information: Bad information is lies, things that are not true. And if we know they aren’t true and we keep on spreading them, we are no longer just gossiping but we are also slandering. Ever play the telephone game? One whispers something in someone’s ear and the information gets passed from person to person. When it reaches the final person they say the info out loud. Rarely does it make it all the way through intact. Somewhere along the line the information gets cloudy, twisted. So it is with gossip. Things get passed through the grapevine and false rumors get spread. “Bad” information can also be something that you think is true but really is not. You make a conclusion or infer something that is unverifiable and you pass it along, you gossip. The Bible promises that “a false witness will not go unpunished, and he who pours out lies will not go free” (Proverbs 19:5).
- Bad news about someone: This type of bad news is “shameful truth,” a true story about something bad someone has actually done. “Some of us have been taught that if something is true, then it’s not gossip. Not so. Gossip is also foolishly spreading that awful truth about someone.” You hear about something bad a friend has done, maybe even a friend told you about it himself. Lying to a spouse, lying to a friend, cheating on a test, cheating on a someone, smoking, getting wasted, stealing from work, premarital sex, a certain sin struggle they are walking through, and the list goes on. Newsflash! Just because you hear about it doesn’t mean you have to talk about it with someone else. Proverbs 11:13 says that “a gossip betrays a confidence, but a trustworthy man keeps a secret.” But that’s hard for us isn’t it? It is hard to resist. The Bible even says “the words of a gossip are like choice morsels,” or in other words the words of a gossip are like your favorite piece of food. And we all know it’s hard to resist our favorite foods. My mouth is even starting to water right now thinking about mine! But, like most of our favorite foods, “bad news is attractive but not good for us.” Gossip is hard to resist, but Jesus is better.
- Bad news for someone: “A third kind of bad news is neither false nor true but is a projection of something bad happening to someone.” Ever heard or said these (or similar) lines?
“He’s going to lose his job.”
“He’s not going to make the team.”
“He’s going to fail the class.”
“She’s going to get kicked out of school.”
“Her husband is going to leave her.”
“They’re going to lose their house.”
“He’s going to break up with her.”
Bottom line, these projections are all gossip.
So whether we are bearing bad information, bad news about someone, or bad news for someone, by either listening or talking, we are endanger of gossiping.
Join me next week as we look at the next part of the gossip definition…. “behind someone’s back…”
And as you go through this week, think about these questions:
-Are you usually on the talking or the listening side of gossip?
-Which category of gossip do you find yourself participating in most often?
-Do you believe Jesus is better than gossip?
-Do you believe God is powerful enough to overcome gossip in your life?