|Photo credit: Jordi Labanda|
What is gossip? According to Merriam-Webster dictionary, gossip refers to the information about the behavior and personal lives of other people. It also refers to a person who often talks about private details of other people’s lives. So, it is clear to say that gossip involves third party who is not present in the dialogue or discussion.
Now, what does the Bible tell us about it? God’s Word, the ultimate and absolute standard for every area of our life, cautions us to guard our words when we speak about others and instructs us to stay away from people who gossip. Why? Because the Bible knows that gossip has harmful effect on people. Intentionally or unintentionally, the result of gossip is always negative and destructive -- broken trust. Hurt feelings. Damaged reputation. Hence, we need to be mindful of it. God’s Word even considers gossip as slander.
He who goes about as a slanderer reveals secrets. Therefore do not associate with a gossip.
Staying away from gossip is not an option. It is a command.
“‘Do not go about spreading slander among your people. Do not do anything that endangers your neighbor’s life.” I am the Lord.””
(Notice that God highlights who He is in our life. And because He knows how stubborn and hard-headed we are, He had to remind us that He is The Boss, hence it requires obedience).
Ephesians 4:29 reminds us to not let any unwholesome talk come out of our mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. So, if what you are going say is not going to build up the person you are talking or the person you are talking about, hold it and stop it. Building up each other must be the goal of every conversation.
In our church community, we are taught that if I am not part of the problem, nor part of the solution disengage the conversation. In short, do not talk about it at all.
I remember a time when a friend was sharing something about the other person. I politely cut her off and requested my friend to keep it because I don’t need to hear it since I’m not involved anyway in the problem and solution. But if that person personally comes to me and asks for advice, then that’s a different story. (Notice that the friend in the story is anonymous to protect her identity and reputation. I wanted to share this personal experience to make a point and so you can relate). If you happen to be in a discussion and suddenly your friend opens up about other people’s life that is not going to build up anyone, please politely request your friend to stop it. By doing that, you are guarding yourself to hear or engage in gossip and you are helping your friend to be mindful of other people’s reputation and values. You are also making your friend aware what gossip is and that it is not pleasing to the Lord.
If you are struggling with gossip, resolve it in your heart that you will choose to put a stop to it. Every one of us (no one is exempted which means including me) may have engaged in gossip. I pray that we would all choose to stop it. Then, ask forgiveness from the Lord (I would recommend that you also ask forgiveness from the people you gossip about) and repent from it. Then, let’s guard our heart and our mouth and strive to build up and encourage one another.