Pssst!! Hey, did you hear…?

From family reunions to church activities, the water cooler to professional conventions, studies reveal that 70% of conversation indulges in the guilty pleasure of GOSSIP. This indictment on humanity might immediately provoke your defense mechanisms as no one wants to admit to this. Yet, scientists say that gossipis “like breathing…it’s so much a part of our day that we don’t even realizewe’re doing it” (Foster, 1997).

In Old English, gossip or god-sibb — originally meant a person related to one in God, like a ‘godparent’ or ‘god sisters.’ The word later evolved to mean aclose female friend or companion, and then the kind of talk characteristic of intimate friends, i.e. sharing of secrets, chatty talk, or intimate talk about personal issues. Today, gossip has pejorative connotations, it is defined as 1) trivial writing or talk of an intimate nature about someone else; 2) a person who habitually spreads intimate or private rumors orfacts.

Why do peoplegossip?
If we know that gossip is wrong why do people spend so much time doing it? What motivates people to engage in malicious talk? Studies have shown that gossip benefits from its end results, such as looking better in front of a boss or rubbing shoulders with people that have influence. But the true culprit is a sin nature and a deep rooted feeling of inferiority. Gossip gives a cheap thrill of superiority from spreading information that others don’t have, and we all know that knowledge is power. Essentially, by gossiping, the gossiper feels as if he/she is a much better person than the subject of the gossip.

Stretching the truth, exaggeration, or embellishing a story is a LIE! It makes a story “juicier,” which increases the impact of the story when disclosed. This kind of “story telling” creates a psychological rush in the gossiper, an internal power surge. This is what makes gossip so evil! It becomes a social surgical tool that disembowels a person’scharacter and reputation for a cheap personal thrill. Ultimately, the goal of gossip is defamation, slander, and vilification. I read somewhere “Believe none of what you hear and half ofwhat you see, because your perception is limited without all of the facts.”

The story is told of ayoung man during the Middle Ages who went to a monk to ask what he should do to repent of his sin of slander. The monk instructed the young man to put a feather on every doorstep in town. When the young man returned, the monk instructed him to go back and pick up all the feathers. “But that’simpossible,” cried the man, “By now the wind will have blown them all overtown!” “So has your slanderous word become impossible to retrieve,” replied the monk, “though you are forgiven, you can never retrieve the damage you havedone.”
What does theBible say?The words of a whisperer are like delicious morsels…” Prov. 26:22

Gossip is as old as sin. The word “gossip” is not found in most translations of the Bible. However, the Apostle Paul deals aggressively with the topic in his epistles. He defines it as idle talk or rumor, especially about the personal or private affairs of others. The closest thing to a biblical definition of gossip would be found in 1 Timothy 5:13 “And withal they learn to be idle, wandering about from house to house; and not only idle, but tattlers also and busybodies, speaking things which they ought not.

There’s nothing wrong with enjoying good conversation, but the Bible warns that excessive talk is often accompanied by sin. “Where words are many, sin is not absent…” (Prov. 10:19, NIV)

The Greek words associated with gossip are “diabolos” (accusing), “blasphemeo” (defaming), and“katalalia” (speaking against). The Bible makes it excessively clear that all gossip is wrong, whether the gossip is false (Mt. 5:11), true (Prov. 17:9), malicious (Ps. 31:13), or merely foolish (Prov. 10:18). We are warned to avoid bearing and listening to gossip (Tit. 2:3; 1 Tim. 3:11).

I believe one of the most malicious and deadliest forms of gossip are from the pulpits. Unfortunately, pastors can be one of the greatest violators of God’s command concerning gossip. Pastors often think they are immune from this rule and are allowed to openly gossip about parishioners or another pastor or ministry, right from the pulpit. It is illegal, unethical, unbiblical, and one of the worst violations of confidence when a pastor uses the pulpit to air out a parishioner’s personal life or counseling experience. The Bible declares “These people are grumblers and faultfinders; they follow their own evil desires; they boast about themselves and flatter others for their own advantageIn the last times there will be scoffers who will follow their own ungodlydesires.” 19 These are the people who divide you, who follow merenatural instincts and do not have the Spirit (Jude 1:16-19, NIV).

Have you ever been the object of a gossip or slander? I have and chances are you have too! Most of us have felt the sting that comes when we find out that “friends” are talking behind our backs. The book of Proverbs says gossip aggressively assaults others like a club, sword, or sharp arrow (Prov. 25:18). It stirs up dissention (Prov.10:12) and kindles strife (Prov. 26:21). It destroys reputations (Prov. 25:10) and worst of all, it separates close friends and fractures relationships (Prov.17:9). That’s probably why of all sin, gossip is amongst the most appallingin God’s eyes (Prov. 6:19).

If we’re honest, I think most of us would admit that we enjoy hearing the latest juicy story or“prayer request” about an acquaintance or friend. However the Bible says that the words of a whisperer are like delicious morsels, and that listening to tales is like savoring a rare delicacy (Prov18:8). To “savor” means to pause and enjoy. The problem with listening to gossip is that we take it in. It does not simply pass by. Instead,we spend time considering it. And whether we like it or not, it taints our spirits, thoughts, and attitudes. Perhaps suspicion and caution arise where previously there were none. Perhaps we begin to see the person spoken of in a slightly  different light. Or perhaps we begin to see faults that we never saw before. As the ancient philosopher Horace said, “Once a word has been allowed to escape,it cannot be recalled.”

The Lord wants us toavoid the sin of gossip. His Word says, “Whoever guards his mouth preserves his life; he who opens wide his lips comes to ruin” (Prov 13:3).

I set a challenge to you this week – every time you have a conversation ask yourself whether your conversation is honoring to God and toother people. Remember, Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is notself-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love doesnot delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, alwaystrusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails (1 Cor. 13: 4-8).

 

Emler,N. (1992). The Truth about Gossip. Social Psychology Section Newsletter27:23-37.
Emler, N. (1994). Gossip, reputation andSocial Adaption. In Good Gossip, R. Goodman and A. Ben-Ze’ev, eds. Pp. 119-140.Lawrence: University of Kansas Press.
Foster (1997). Review of General Psychology (Vol. 8, No. 2, pages 78-99).
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2 thoughts on “Pssst!! Hey, did you hear…?

  1. Gossip is tempting to engage in, I my self have been in situations when I have first hand knowledge of someone who has been spreding vicious rumors,(in my christain walk I've heard pleanty)and I find my slef ploting my own "truthfull gossip" to "Right the Wrong" after a small walk to my pray closet It doesn't take long for me to hear Christ words of comfort "Son they did it to me"…its not worth it".

  2. Vick, you are absolutely right! Hebrews says, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are–yet was without sin (Hebrews 4:15, NIV).In my last blog I dealt with a study which showed that 80 percent of human thoughts are negative and 90 percent of thoughts are recycled from the day before. If we add to this dilemma that 70 percent of human conversation is gossip, we can surmise that out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks (Luke 6:45). This is why so many people engage in negative & malicious talk, their heart have not been changed. We have a high priest, Jesus Christ, who can help us captivate our imaginations and submit them under His authority. As Christians, we are commanded to renew our minds so that we do not conform to the patterns of this world. Only through the cooperation and intervention of the Holy Spirit can true internal transformation happen. We must truly want it and seek it out like a treasure. Thanks again for your friendship & brotherly encouragement!

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