There is an ongoing epidemic that destroys relationships, divides churches, wreaks havoc on marriages, kills friendships, hinders the spread of the gospel, and loses trust faster than anything:
Gossip is commonly understood as spreading information about someone outside of their consent that may or may not be true, but I believe it takes several additional forms:
- Telling stories about someone else that paints them in a negative way
- Over sharing details of someone else’s life
- Speculating the motives of someone else
- Seeking “advice” on how to handle someone else in their situation; also known as “prayer request” gossip
And listen, I am not above this in any way. I was convicted just YESTERDAY of the harmful effects of gossip, and how it creepily sneaks into my life. I think we like to sugarcoat it as “being real” or “talking about ministry”, but in reality, gossip is gossip, and we need to confront it in the face and call it what it is.
Gossip is not a problem unique to our generation or culture. In fact, the Bible speaks very directly to this in the book of James, referring to the tongue as “a world of unrighteousness” (3:6) “a restless evil” (3:8) and “full of deadly poison” (3:8). And verse 9 goes on to tell us that with that same tongue, “we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God.” Ouch.
So why do we gossip?
Gossip is appealing and addicting because it gives the partaker a sense of superiority over the victim. And, if we are being honest, we like to be in the know. We feel important when we are the beholders of exclusive information. We all have an opinion about what someone else is doing, and we feel validated when we share that opinion with everyone else (beside the person it involves, of course). We are insecure, so we like to analyze others and their behaviors, their marriages, their parenting styles, the way they approach situations, or whatever other ridiculous thing you could come up with, and compare how we are doing it better. And if we are really honest, sometimes we are just bored. We dwell in other people’s lives to make our own lives more exciting. No wonder James refers to our tongues as a restless evil.
Dealing with Conflict
Gossip often spawns out of conflict between two people, whether it be hurt feelings, offense in response to a particular behavior, or a sin committed toward each other. More often than not, conflict that began with two people turns into a conflict involving a web of people. Sally is upset with Susie, so Sally goes and tells her 10 best friends, and Susie tells her 10 best friends, who all go and tell their friends, who, of course, all have an opinion of what Sally and Susie should do, and before you know it, a war is created with Team Sally vs Team Susie. You know what could stop all of this madness? A Matthew 18 approach to conflict, which is this: “If your brother (or sister) sins against you, go and tell him (or her) his fault, between you and him alone. If he (or she) listens to you, you have gained your brother (or sister).” There are steps in the following verses to help if this approach is unsuccessful, but I have a good feeling that having the boldness and humility to seek gospel-centered reconciliation will go a long way.
Our Closest Relationships
I have often lived under the lie that I get a “pass” with gossip, as long as it stays within the confines of my closest friends or my husband. After all, who else am I supposed to share my frustrations toward other people with? God recently convicted me heavily of this in my marriage. My husband James is the most optimistic, happy-go-lucky guy who genuinely likes everyone he knows and believes the best in all people. However, I started to notice the way I talked about people would affect the way he viewed them. If I would come home and vent about someone, it would change his view to see them in a negative light. God convicted me with this hard question: am I helping James toward holiness and righteousness, or am I helping him toward sin? I have an incredible amount of influence in the words I use in conversation with him, and the best thing I can do for him is help him toward godliness, and gossip has no place in that. I understand there’s a safety that comes in our closest relationships, but the frustration or anger toward other people that leads to gossip should first be dealt with in our relationship with God. After that, I trust He will give the wisdom to help discern if that information is necessary and/or helpful to share with James in a beneficial way.
We have the opportunity to use our tongue for good
The people I am most impressed with are ones that shamelessly build others up when they aren’t even around. We have incredible potential to use our words for good, to lavishly give grace, to encourage others, to assume noble intent and believe the best, and to help champion people as they pursue their dreams. This begins with a heart that is humbled before God, painfully aware of its depravity, yet trusting in the work of Jesus to sanctify the sinfulness that results in gossip. The words that come out of our mouths are reflective of what’s going on in our hearts, so let’s be proactive in filling our hearts with God’s Word, and preach the hope of the gospel to ourselves daily. I have a huge heart and hope to be part of a people who refuse the temptation of gossip, and instead choose their words carefully and wisely to speak life. Let’s do it.
“Death and life are in the power of the tongue..” Proverbs 18:21
Until next time,