A Resolution to Eliminate Gossip

Gossip. We know it’s bad. We’re told not to do it. But, what is gossip? Gossip is defined as: ” casual or unconstrained conversation or reports about other people, typically involving details that are not confirmed as being true.” The Biblical definition goes a bit further: “The Hebrew word translated “gossip” in the Old Testament is defined as “one who reveals secrets, one who goes about as a talebearer or scandal-monger.” A gossiper is a person who has privileged information about people and proceeds to reveal that information to those who have no business knowing it.” All of that sounds really distasteful. So, why is gossip so hard to avoid?

Maybe, we just don’t realize we are participating in gossip. And, often, it’s just too interesting, too tantalizing not to share information. It’s common in Christian circles to thinly disguise gossip as “prayer requests.” There is nothing wrong with asking for prayer for yourself or for others, but the information shared should be kept to an absolute minimum. Peter Vajda identifies gossip as a form of workplace violence, noting that it is “essentially a form of attack.” If I portray myself as a kind and truthful person, gossip would be the anti-thesis of that, right?

Gossip is distinguished from sharing information in two ways:
1. Intent. Gossipers often have the goal of building themselves up by making others look bad and exalting themselves as some kind of repositories of knowledge.
2. The type of information shared. Gossipers speak of the faults and failings of others, or reveal potentially embarrassing or shameful details regarding the lives of others without their knowledge or approval. Even if they mean no harm, it is still gossip.

How do I avoid participating in gossip? I need to consider everything BEFORE I share information with others. Would I share details about another person if they were standing next to me? Would the person(s) involved be hurt by what I’m sharing? Is it really necessary to give ALL of the details? Why do I WANT to share this information? Am I trying to justify my own actions? And, if I’m on the receiving end of a conversation, I need to ask the same questions. Many times, the simplest way to stop the sharing of gossip is to STOP listening. Even sympathetic listening can encourage gossip. I must learn to draw lines, to differentiate between constructive conversations and idle talk. I must learn to walk away from unhealthy talk and habits, for my own wellbeing as well as for those in my community.

“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” Phillipians 4:8 NIV

Your Story

Recently, a friend commented while watching a man riding his bike through the traffic “I wonder what his story is?” We all have a story. And, there is someone in the world that can benefit from your story. You just have to be willing to share it.

I used to believe that I had a very boring story. I grew up in a happy and content family. My parents were living examples of “til death do you part.” My siblings and I got along. My parents were known as the “cool parents.” I grew up in church and became a Christian when I was 10 years old. I graduated from high school at the top of my class and had the pick of which university I wanted to attend. I chose a small east Texsas college and graduated in 4 years. Never a big partier, I was involved with the Baptist Student Ministry and travelled on weekends to sing at churches in the area. I had a job offer that I accepted before I finished my senior year. As I moved on into adulthood, I lived a kind of charmed life. So, when I was asked to share my story, I did it with little excitement and maybe a bit apologetically.

As I matured, I realized that there were people that found value in my story. Even my boring story was important to someone. As a heart-broken single adult, a new bride, an expectant mom or a tired parent, I could share my experiences. This caused others to share their own stories and we built community together on those experiences.

But the true value of sharing my story has become most evident recently. For my story of a charmed life has taken a new twist. Grief has painted a different patina on my view of life. Things that were once boring are now priceless. I’ve learned not to take the ordinary for granted, because it is often the ordinary that becomes extraordinary in every day life. My story is one of brokenness and survival. It’s a story of God’s continuing blessings in a dark and horrible time. And as I tell my story and listen to the stories around me, my heart heals a little more.

Every story is important. Every story needs to be heard. What’s your story?