How Gossip Can Ruin Everything

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If you’d asked me three weeks ago for my opinion on gossip – I would have told you that it’s something that I try to stay well away from.

That if I notice a conversation has turned a corner towards gossip I’ll actively try to either steer it somewhere else, or shut it down.

The reason that I held such strong views is that I have seen first hand the consequences that it can have.

A few years ago, for some unknown reason, one person that I knew decided to go out of their way to tell my current supervisor that I had lied on my job application.

They’d met at a work function, realized that they both knew me, and exchanged contact details.

Then, later on, this person had called my supervisor to ‘set them straight’ about what the so called ‘truth’ was about me and my past, which included the implication that I had been dishonest.

Now, just to be clear – I hadn’t lied on my job application, and I hadn’t even ‘stretched the truth’ a bit.

People who know me well describe me as a very straight shooter – I tend to ‘tell it like it is’ whether you like it or not – and my application for this position and the way I went about my job were no different.

Straight to the point and accurate.

Obviously, I wasn’t even there at the function where these people had met, and I wasn’t included in the phone call.

The first I knew of any issue was when my supervisor pulled me aside and said we needed to talk about a fairly big problem.

During the conversation that followed I was able to explain and demonstrate that the accusations that had been made were false… but here’s the thing.

Even though I was able to disprove every single negative inference that had been made – the damage to my supervisor’s perception of me had already occurred.

Things deteriorated from there, and I ended up leaving that position a few weeks later.

This person, in two short conversations, had done an incredible amount of damage that turned out to be unrecoverable.

Knowing how damaging gossip can be, I had resolved to stay away from it.

And then, a few weeks ago, the Holy Spirit suggested that I prepare a bible study on the topic of Gossip and Slander for one of the bible study groups that I’ve been leading – and I realized very quickly, that although I thought I was doing what I should be on the Gossip-front, I still had some areas that I needed to tighten up in my own life.

And when I shared this topic with the ladies in my bible study group, I was overwhelmed by the number of follow-up messages that came through thanking me for opening their eyes to this issue.

I’m going to make a full-length bible study video for this topic, but I thought it might be useful if I covered some of the main points in this video.

So the best working definition of ‘Gossip’ that I found is the ‘sharing of information about someone else that isn’t public knowledge’.

It’s important to realize that we often believe this information to be truthful, or accurate.

When it comes to ‘slander’, there’s actually a significant difference between the way the world defines it (which is the sharing of false information about someone else to damage their reputation) and the way the bible views it – which is the sharing of information (whether true or false) for the deliberate purpose of causing damage.

As you might imagine, there are a lot of references to gossip and slander in the bible.

We are taught that gossip betrays confidences, stirs up conflicts, separates friendships, flames the fire of fights and quarrels and goes down into our innermost parts.

Matthew chapter 12 verse 36 warns us that we’ll have to give an account for every careless word we speak.

Slander is viewed so seriously that the Greek word diabolos which is sometimes translated ‘devil’ is also sometimes translated ‘slanderer’.

What really opened my eyes though, was looking at the 9 different forms that gossip can take, and realizing that there are a few of them that I had been using recently in various conversations.

We’ve already talked about the first, most evil and damaging form of gossip – Slander.

This is when you share information deliberately because you’re trying to damage someone’s perception of another person, like the person I knew did with my supervisor.

The next form that Gossip can take is the dishing of dirt – or the sharing of juicy information about someone and what they’ve been up to.

That’s fairly self explanatory.

Another form is the spreading of Rumors.

This can happen almost accidentally, when you hear something, perhaps it’s the juicy information I just referred to, and you’re not really sure if it’s true or not.

So you pass it on, or you ask someone else about it in an attempt to get more information or clarify what you heard – and you’ve just spread the rumor even further.

The next form is Backbiting – which is an old fashioned way of saying ‘backstabbing’ and it’s mentioned specifically in Proverbs chapter 25 verse 23.

Basically, this involves speaking negatively about someone who isn’t present for the conversation, and isn’t able to defend themselves.

The next form is Mockery – which involves mimicking or exaggerating someone’s mannerisms, which is also self-explanatory.

But now we’re going to move on to some more subtle forms of gossip – such as planting seeds… which is when you say something in a way that makes the person who is listening question or assume something about someone’s character.

Like “did you notice how that assistant keeps staring at your husband?”

Another more subtle form of gossip involves Jokes – and more specifically the type of jokes we tell when we’re not really joking.

It’s basically when we take a half-truth and we turn it into a joke that pokes holes in someone’s character.

An example of this might be “she might even get off her device for long enough today to put the dishes away” – which implies laziness, or tech addiction, or inability to prioritize, or even that someone lives like a slob.

Then there’s whispered innuendo – which are really subtle insinuations like “it’s interesting how those two always manage to go away to the same work conferences” and the final subtle form of gossip – the ‘probably got it wrong news’ which always starts off with “I probably got this all wrong, but apparently…”

So that’s a very quick summary of 9 different forms that gossip can take, and as I said earlier, this is a topic that I ended up preaching to myself as much as to anyone else.

If, like me, you’ve just realized that you’ve either participated in gossip, or you’ve listened to someone else gossiping, there are three important steps for you to take.

The first is to take responsibility for what you’ve done and acknowledge that it was wrong.

The second is to confess it to God and seek forgiveness, and the third – if you suspect that your gossip has potentially caused damage to another person – is to apologize to that person and seek forgiveness from them, as well as setting the record straight with the audience of your gossip.

The bible makes it really clear that there is no place for either gossip or slander in the kingdom of God, and it’s really important that we recognize it and cut it off from our conversations so we can move on with the important business of stepping into our calling.

Until next time, blue skies!

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