The Issue of Gossip

Have you ever sat in a cafe and listened to the conversations around you? The other day I was sat giving my baby boy his bottle and all around me I could hear different women chatting and the topic that dominated conversation all centered around 'other people' - gossip! Such conversations included, 'Can you believe she said/did that?', 'Did you hear about...?', 'I was shocked to hear...left her husband!' etc.

It got me thinking. What would Jesus think of the conversations and thoughts I have? Do I listen and delight in sharing gossip? Do I judge people with my reactions and the way I tell things?

lilies for encouragementI came to the answer - YES! I am guilty of listening to gossip and taking part in gossip myself. So I wanted to write this page to challenge myself and encourage you to be godly women with integrity. I have found that Christian women are just as good at gossiping as non-Christians - often sharing juicy gossip for prayer purposes only of course! This is so wrong. This was true in early Christian times when Paul writes to Timothy when he talks of women becoming "gossips and busybodies, saying things they ought not." (1 Tim 5:13). In Romans Paul writes about the many sins of those who are not in right fellowship with God.

'They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters...' (Romans 1:29).

Who is a gossiper?

Webster's dictionary defines a gossip as "a person who habitually reveals personal or sensational facts about others."

So a gossiper is not a person who shares good news or talks well of people. I think a good test as to whether you are gossiping is to imagine the person you are talking about is stood next to you. Would you still be saying the same words?

The book of Proverbs tells us, "The words of a gossip are like choice morsels; they go down to a man's inmost parts." (Proverbs 18:8). Gossiping can seem fun and harmless but the reality is it can be very hurtful and do much damage to our relationships with others. Most importantly, the Bible tells us that it is wrong.

'The words of a talebearer are as wounds, and they go down into the innermost part of the belly.' (Proverbs 26:22)

A quote that I read recently was... "Don't gossip about people, pray for them!"

As Christians we should do our best to avoid gossip. Even if we find ourselves in a situation where people around us are gossiping we should either remove ourselves from the conversation or extinguish the gossiping by saying kind and encouraging words about the person being gossiped about.

2 Timothy 2:16-17 ....'Avoid godless chatter, because those who indulge in it will become more and more ungodly. Their teaching will spread like gangrene.'

Jesus calls us to be different and as Christians we should have the courage to stand apart. .We are in the world, but we should not be of the world as Jesus quoted in John 17:14-16.

Lori Palatnik, in her book, 'Gossip: Ten Pathways to Eliminate It From Your Life and Transform Your Soul' includes the following story to illustrate the damage that gossip can do ...

"There is a 19th century folktale about a man who went about town slandering the town's wise man. One day, he went to the wise man's home and asked for forgiveness. The wise man, realizing that this man had not internalized the gravity of his transgressions, told him that he would forgive him on one condition: that he go home, take a feather pillow from his house, cut it up, and scatter the feathers to the wind. After he had done so, he should then return to the wise man's house.

Though puzzled by this strange request, the man was happy to be let off with so easy a penance. He quickly cut up the pillow, scattered the feathers, and returned to the house.

"Am I now forgiven?" he asked.

"Just one more thing," the wise man said. "Go now and gather up all the feathers."

"But that's impossible. The wind has already scattered them."

"Precisely," he answered. "And though you may truly wish to correct the evil you have done, it is as impossible to repair the damage done by your words as it is to recover the feathers. Your words are out there in the marketplace, spreading hate, even as we speak."

God's word tells us that, "Whoever guards his mouth and tongue keeps his soul from troubles." (Proverbs 21:23)

In today's world gossip is a big money making business. The newspapers and magazines are filled with celebrities and the latest gossip. So what should we do about it? God calls us to be different and stand apart from the world. How can we be different? What a difference it would make to our lives if instead of reading the gossip and buying the magazines we instead spend that time reading the Bible.

If every Christian woman in the world did their best to avoid gossip, and heeded the word of God, what an amazing witness we would be to our non-Christian friends. Proverbs 20:19 advises us, "A gossip betrays a confidence, so avoid a man/woman who talks too much."

God's word challenges us, "Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs that it may benefit those who listen." (Ephesians 4:29)

I set a challenge to you this week - everytime you have a conversation ask yourself whether your conversation is honouring to God and to other people. Would you be happy if Jesus was standing next to you or even the person you are talking about was part of the conversation. Listen to the song below and ask God to help you to serve him in all your words and actions this week. Be encouraged, God will answer your prayers.