Let's be real. Most of us gossip about others. But why, when we know we shouldn't? And is it necessarily bad?
The Good and the Bad and the Ugly
"I heard that Jessica's having a baby!" can be good, bad, or really ugly, depending on the context.
If Jessica's been trying to have a baby for a while and learned that she's finally pregnant, the statement will be delivered as a happy revelation.
If Jessica is an unwed teenager, the statement may be cloaked in judgment and distain.
If Jessica is not, in fact, pregnant, the statement - whether you are just passing along what you heard or you are starting a negative falsehood - can cause unimaginable heartache.
Why We Gossip
One study suggests that over half of our conversations are about "socially relevant topics" which includes talking about people. But is it all bad? Nope.
Sometimes gossip can be fun. Telling a funny story about a mutual friend can be entertaining, as long as it's not malicious. If you're going to engage in this kind of gossip, be sure you understand your motivation so you are using funny stories to ridicule or embarrass.
My small group at church maintains a prayer list that we update each time we meet. I like going over the list and hearing new information about the people I am praying for. Usually, this is very personal - often medical or financial - information. Relaying this information could easily turn ugly, but, since our motivation is to intercede on their behalf, we would never use that information to hurt those we pray for.
A story about my daughter has been circulating for years. Thankfully, it is a story of caution, not one of those ugly rumors. When she was about 12, she absent-mindedly left a candle burning in her bedroom. That might not have been so catastrophic if she had followed my frequent reminders to use candle holders. Instead, she had placed the candle on top of her clock radio which sat on her nightstand. When the flame reached the clock, it quickly caught fire. Thankfully, the fire didn't spread to anything but the nightstand and the house suffered nothing but smoke damage, but it was a tough and expensive lesson about the importance of using a candle holder. The story quickly spread throughout our circle of friends and the adults used it as a safety lesson with their children. Even years later, people will occasionally say "I remember when Maria's room caught on fire. That taught me to always use a candle holder!".
As Exodus 23:1 says, "You must not pass along false rumors. You must not cooperate with evil people by lying on the witness stand."
Keep in mind that ugly gossip says much more about the person spreading it than it does about the subject of the gossip.
How Do I Stop Ugly Gossip?
- Pray about it. The Holy Spirit can give you the wisdom to recognize ugly gossip and the strength to refrain from participating in it.
- Put yourself in the place of the subject of your gossip. How would you feel if someone said those things about you?
- Consider if what you're about to say is something that you want God to hear you say.
- Follow Paul's advice to the Ephesians: Let everything you say be good and helpful.
- Think about your motivation for spreading the gossip and address it. Are you jealous? Do you think you have to tear others down to build yourself up? Trying to fit in with other gossipers? I don't have to tell you that those are feelings and actions that need to be addressed in order to maintain a close relationship with Jesus.