Turn Off the Gossip Channel
- 2011 15 Aug
"Did you hear what Sandra did?"
"Not everything, but what I did was just awful!"
"Yeah, she trashed her boyfriend's car and then dumped him for the quarterback."
"Gosh, that's messed up! I'm glad MY life is normal."
While the sin of gossip is often associated with the fairer sex, let's be honest guys -- we struggle too. Most evenings, we tune into the news, sports, reality TV, or the weather; but one station we tune to more than we should is the Gossip Channel. It's so captivating. It's something we can't seem to turn off.
Why is this exchange of mostly unreliable and often hurtful information filling our conversations more than once a week? During Lent, I have been pondering this particular issue. I would like to share my thoughts on how to identify and overcome that ugly beast, Gossip.
Consider the Source… and Content
"If fifty million people say a foolish thing, it is still a foolish thing." - Anatole
Would you believe me if I told you something about someone? What if your cousin said it? Ok, perhaps your mom?
Many times I have been so ready to take someone for their word and pass it along as truth. It's easy to assume that because everyone is saying something, it's right, true, or repeatable - but this isn't the case. More doesn't mean better. The farther down the line you go, the more the information passed along becomes a dangerous rumor. And the more delightful it is to spread.
Gossipers most commonly hold information considered privileged and what many would call ‘juicy.' They may also embellish on what they know. I can say this because I've been one - I am one.
Most of the time I have meant no harm, and I almost always feel good after sharing some juicy tidbit. It feels satisfying to know things. Why can't I just "share" information?
To really make a distinction between gossip and sharing, take a listen to the content. A line of gossip usually includes faults and failings of others. It will expose potentially embarrassing or dishonorable information about others. All this is done without their awareness or consent. This is why even true statements are not necessarily repeatable.
I once thought that if I put "so, could you pray for them" at the end of my gossip line, my sharing would be justified. The problem? In doing this, I not only tempted a friend to gossip, but I shamed the principles of prayer petitions. No excuses for me. I'm onto my own wrongdoings.
Get Ready to Get Rid of It
The first step to beating something is to know what it is you're dealing with. How can you win a boxing match unless you learn the moves? What will bring you a perfect score if you don't study for the test? Let's look to scripture for the answers. Proverbs 20:19 says, "A gossip betrays a confidence; so avoid a man who talks too much."
Once we identify gossip, we can stop it, right? We can just stop betraying others' confidence and stop talking so much? I wish it were so easy.
Gossip is like one of those creepy monster movies where the good guys kill off the entire species of beasts, but in the end the camera zeroes in on the nest of eggs they overlooked. Gossip keeps coming back for more, showing up when we least expect it.
"Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other." Galatians 5: 24 - 26
I can do my absolute best to avoid being a scandal-monger, but it will take everything in me to STOP passing along juicy tidbits of information that give me that "great" feeling of being a reliable repository of knowledge. The more I try, the more I realize I cannot eliminate this sin without God's help. I must pray the Holy Spirit will be with me always and give me strength and wisdom to keep quiet. I must attack this issue one word at a time, one prayer at a time.
"A man who lacks judgment derides his neighbor, but a man of understanding holds his tongue. A gossip betrays confidence, but a trustworthy man keeps a secret"(Proverbs 11:12-13).
I want to be a trustworthy person. I need to be a friend who holds confidence. I must be a man of understanding. During this Lent, I pray that "the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer" (Psalm 19:14).
Ben Derrickson lives in Colorado with his wife and two sons. He can be reached at email@example.com.
Original publication date: March 10, 2010