Gossip – 4 Common Misconceptions

 

gossip

It is no consequence that the Book of Proverbs – a book of wisdom – includes some form of instruction about the tongue/speech/words in almost every single chapter. The most often quoted of which being, “Life and death are in the power of the tongue,” (Proverbs 18:21). The tongue is either a tool to build, or a weapon to destroy. It amazes me that followers of Jesus spend so much of their energy in judgment of other’s failures, faults, and sins, while completely ignoring the relational and spiritual devastation that comes from inappropriate uses of the tongue – gossip being the choice abuse among most believers in closed circles. Take a few seconds to skim through these short biblical proverbs about gossip and similar abuses of the tongue (all quoted from the HCSB):

“A contrary man spreads conflict, and a gossip separates close friends.” (Proverbs 16:28)

“Whoever conceals an offense promotes love, but whoever gossips about it separates friends.” (Proverbs 17:9)

“Whoever spreads slander is a fool.” (Proverbs 10:18)

“A gossip goes around revealing a secret, but a trustworthy person keeps a confidence.” (Proverbs 11:13)

“The Lord hates . . . one who stirs up trouble among brothers.” (Proverbs 6:19-19)

“Smooth lips with an evil heart are like glaze on an earthen vessel.” (Proverbs 26:23)

If God takes abuse of the tongue so seriously, followers of Jesus should as well. Here are 4 common misconceptions about gossip, and how you can begin to use your tongue as a tool to build, instead of a weapon to destroy:

4 Common Misconceptions About Gossip:

  1. It’s not gossip if it is true. While gossip is often false, it really has nothing to do with the truthfulness of the claim. In fact, gossip can either be true or false. What makes it gossip is that the information privately shared (whether true or untrue) does harm to someone – anyone – rather than good. The New Testament teaching on this might be summed up in Paul’s words to the Ephesians, “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear,” (Ephesians 4:29, ESV)). As it turns out, when your Mom instructed you, “If you can’t say something nice don’t say anything at all,” it was actually biblical.
  2. I have to share with someone, or I’ll explode. Biblically, the righteous thing to do is to conceal information that has the potential of doing harm rather than good, not to spread it. You cannot control what other people do. But you can control how you respond to it. Your emotions are your responsibility. Own them. And trust God to deal with issues in His way, in His time.
  3. Everyone knows it anyway. First of all, that is never true. Secondly, your tongue is your responsibility. If something you say separates instead of unifies, destroys instead of builds up, or harms instead of helps, it is sin against God. And it reveals the foolishness of your own heart. Whether everyone else is saying it or not, your tongue is your responsibility.
  4. I’m not participating in gossip if I’m just listening. Proverbs 26:20 says, “Without wood, fire goes out; without a gossip, conflict dies down.” The open ear of the listener is dry wood for the gossip’s fire. If no one listened, the gossip would have no one to whom to gossip. So if you are allowing yourself to be on the receiving end of gossip, you are just as responsible for the harm that is caused as is the one dishing it out. And you will share in the Lord’s correction when it comes (Proverbs 27:12).

How do I stop gossip when I recognize it?

A number of years ago, I was on the phone with an older Christian woman. Within only a few minutes it became obvious to me that the whole reason for her call was to gossip about other people in the church and the community. I stopped her in mid-sentence and said, “I’m sorry, _____, but this sounds a whole lot like gossip to me, and I really don’t want to have anything to do with it. Is there something else you’d like to talk about, or something I can help you with?” She was offended and hung up the phone in embarrassment. I wish I could say it led to immediate repentance and restoration, but she left the church and never spoke to me again. Take note of the following Proverbs:

“The wounds of a friend are trustworthy, but the kisses of an enemy are excessive.” (Proverbs 27:6).

“Drive out a mocker and conflict goes too; then quarreling and dishonor will cease.” (Proverbs 22:10)

“A sensible person sees danger and takes cover; the inexperienced keep going and are punished.” (Proverbs 27:12)

“One who rebukes a person will later find more favor than one who flatters with his tongue.” (Proverbs 28:23)

Instead of giving you a list of ideas, allow me to sum up with simplicity: If you recognize that you are on the receiving end of gossip, immediately redirect the conversation, cut it off, or get out of there. Recognize the danger as soon as possible and take action. In the end, the benefit to you will be great and prayerfully, the gossiper will learn repentance in the process.

Why lend your tongue as an instrument unto death, when it can be such a powerful tool unto life?

So how about it? Will you use your tongue as a tool to build, or a weapon to destroy?

Yours in Christ,

Tony

4 thoughts on “Gossip – 4 Common Misconceptions

  1. I know Proverbs refers to the audience as “brothers,” but it applies to all mankind, as we well know. Howeveer, your choice of file picture for your article made my mind go straight to my home church and growing up experience. There I learned that the Deacons Meeting was the biggest source of gossip I remembered. As a deacon myself later in life, I really hated to hear the gossip that moved around the church as “prayer requests” from those meetings.
    For myself, guilty as charged, I try to keep it all in my prayer closet because, unknown to most Christians today, you don’t always need a support group to overshare your problems with. Those can be as gossip spreading as a Deacon’s Meeting. 🙂

    1. Very true, Eric. I was just thinking yesterday about how blessed we are at ABC to have a group of deacons that sincerely care about our membership and the people of our community – so much so that they pray by name for our people, and are always trying to KNOW them more deeply and serve them more selflessly. And I, too, have been a part of those “prayer groups” more often than I’d like to admit, when conversation quickly turned from Christ-centered, well intended concern into outright gossip. Sometimes the conversation changes so quickly you don’t even realize it before you’ve been sucked in. The true test is once we’ve noticed, having the sincerity of spirit to redirect the conversation or back out of it altogether.

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