What is Gossip Anyway?

Monday, September 15, 2014

Key: defending those who are NOT present.  Maintaining their dignity in conversations about them.

No one likes to be gossiped about.  The internal emotional pain is deep, heated, and discouraging when we discover that someone has been talking about us unfavorably behind our back.  Part of the pain is rooted in the fact that we know that whoever was participating and/or listening in on that conversation somehow thinks about us differently.  We wonder how we will approach them in the future and relate to them.  We wonder if things will be somewhat normal. 

But first things first.  It is not gossip to talk about someone when they are not there, especially when you are talking positively about...someone behind their back.  It is always awesome to discover that someone has been bragging about you when you're not there.  

That said, it is gossip to talk about someone unfavorably when they are not there.  This is talking negatively behind their backs.  It is unfavorable conversation about someone else when we talk about the following things:
  • Something they said or did that we didn't like.
  • Any negative feelings we have about the person or something they did or said.
  • A critique of something they've done or said that we disagreed with.
In short, gossip is happening when the dignity of a person is being eroded in any degree in our conversation about them.  The dignity of another person is eroded when...
  • We find ourselves thinking less of them than we did before, so that when we talk...
  • Others begin to think less of them than they did before.
  • They dropped a couple of "notches" in our respect-o-meter, so that when we gossip...
  • Other people's respect-o-meter dropped a couple of notches as well.
  • Our hearts are not as warm toward them as it might have been before, so that when we run our mouths...
  • Others' hearts are not as warm toward them as they might have been before.
There are a lot of other definitions of gossip out there.  Each one of them generally contains some of the truth about gossip.  But almost all of them generally miss the point.  In short, it's about dignity.  We're all made in the image of God.  Talking bad about people tears down that image of God and is set on a path to destroy it. 

The next time you're tempted to gossip, ask yourself if you want to come face to face with God Himself, who created that person, since it is His image you are about to tear down with your words.

The same applies to whining and complaining and griping, all of whom are stepchildren of gossip. It's easy to convince ourselves that if we are not gossiping about a person, but whining about a problem or situation, that we are not technically gossiping.  But we are.  We've simply and conveniently removed the person or persons from the scenario who are or could be responsible for that problem or situation, and labeled it with something that seems less bad.  

Problem is, it's just as bad.  For in those moments, we may have removed specific humans from our gossiping.  But we have in turn made God Himself the subject of our gossip, because essentially we're not happy with something He's decided to do. 

Uh oh.

Didn't think about that, did we?

Ultimately, the key to godly speech is summed up nicely in Ephesians 4:29.  "Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them."  If this is our heart, then let us say with David in Psalm 141:3-4, "Take control of what I say, O LORDand guard my lips.  Don't let me drift toward evil or take part in acts of wickedness."

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