Saturday, May 7, 2016

The ABC’s of gossip

It’s true for many of us, our ears perk up whenever we hear the soft-spoken phrase, “Did you hear about...?” Yet, while this conversation is going on, no one is feeling guilty -- even though we are whispering and looking over our shoulders the whole time. Why? Gossip often feels innocent in the moment, since we aren’t spreading lies after all. Which of course is why we include, “Bless their heart...” just to be on the safe side.

Still, whether or not the information being shared is accurate, gossip damages the heart of community more than just about any other misbehavior people become involved in together. I believe a church or group of people can survive most any setback, but once gossip becomes part of their culture, that congregation or team of people is doomed. It doesn’t matter if you are gathered around the office water-cooler or handing out church bulletins in the foyer, there’s nothing worse for your organization or assembly than to have people gossiping.

Gossip spreads faster than athlete's feet in a locker room, but in case you haven’t given the topic much thought before, for your consideration I’ll share the “ABC’s” of gossip with you. But please don’t tell anyone where you heard about this. Let’s just keep this between the two of us, okay?

A: Gossip Alienates people. Whenever we are involved in gossiping, there’s at least one victim. The victim is the one we are talking about behind their back, and we’ve purposely cut them out of the conversation for obvious reasons. Remember, nothing cuts a conversation shorter than the arrival of the person you were just gossiping about. Furthermore, we usually keep our distance after we’ve talked about someone else -- it is very uncomfortable to make eye-contact with someone we’ve just drug through the mud.

Consider this as you think about how gossip alienates people, “A troublemaker plants seeds of strife; gossip separates the best of friends.” (Prov 16:28 NLT)

Many warped people spread gossip to feel better about themselves, true. But remember this fact: Anyone who will gossip to you, will gossip about you. You might think the of you two are bonding while you share secrets, but really, you are alienating others and yourself.

B: Gossip is a Betrayal. We break people’s confidence whenever we gossip. We betray their trust, no matter how we rationalize it. When you know sensitive information about someone and you share it with others for sensational motives, you’ve dissolved the glue that holds all relationships together, you’ve destroyed their trust. For example, “A gossip goes around telling secrets, but those who are trustworthy can keep a confidence.” (Prov 11:13 NLT)

Face it, the only gossip that gains traction is gossip that includes sensitive or embarrassing information. People don’t gossip about the weather. People like to talk about the elder’s children who are involved in some type of inappropriate and reckless behavior -- probably because they were hanging out with the deacon’s kids....

And finally, C: Gossip is ultimately about Control. This is the sickest part of gossiping. We exert control over who gets to hear the information, when they hear it, the flow of information, and how we leverage the gossip, all to give ourselves a sense of power. We even try to bind the people we gossip to when we say, “No, don’t tell anyone, especially don’t say you heard this from me.” That puts people in an awkward situation, every time.

Having “juicy info” gives some people a demented sense of power over others, but it’s not just unhealthy, it’s wicked. People like to be “in the know,” and they like the feeling of having knowledge others do not have, but others they wish they had. The whole thing is messed up.

Basically, gossip is conversational adultery and it often ruins the reputation of innocent people. Sadly, many Christians who would like to “pray more intelligently” about others also like to share slander under the guise of faithfulness. Remember this, your kids hear every word you don’t want them to, outsiders will rightful avoid judgmental believers, and gossip might be socially acceptable but it’s destructive to society.

Gossip, while it gives some people a rush, erodes the integrity of a community just like a landslide. Scripture is clear, we should avoid people who gossip, “A gossip goes around telling secrets, so don’t hang around with chatterers.” (Prov 20:19 NLT). Gossip is impure and destructive, so guard your heart and your mouth and you’ll safeguard your community.

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