Here’s a sin that I do probably more than I want to admit. The problem is… well, there’s lots of problems, but I was going to say that this is so deeply ingrained in my culture that it’s hard to let go of, let alone admit I’m doing the wrong thing. Other than this, problems include the deceitfulness of the heart, my own ability to lie to myself, the fact that gossip can be fun and it makes me feel good about myself.
I think, for me, gossip is not a conscious attempt to put others down, at least most of the time. I often do it because I’m in a group of friends who suddenly start talking about someone else, and I feel that I have a “valuable” contribution to make. Other times I initiate the gossip because I want validation of an opinion I have about someone. Example: A certain tutor seemingly never knows what they’re talking about, so I complain to my fellow students about the fact that we’re not getting our money’s worth out of our education. Suddenly, everyone has something nasty to add to the conversation and we’re in a full-blown gossip session.
I’m not condoning these reasons: far from it, I’m trying to explore why I continue to gossip even though I know it’s wrong.
I remember a time at uni where I was talking with 3 girlfriends between classes. We were casually discussing our upcoming assignments when the conversation turned to other students at the uni. There was one particular girl who we all seemed to have bad experiences with – the kind who is easy to really get stuck into. And I went for it. I pulled out everything I had from late assignments to stupid answers. Suddenly there was a slight pause, and I felt a bit guilty. The conversation followed a bit like this:
Girl A: “She never even came to class much last semester, I don’t know how she passed.”
Girl B: “I know. She was away for, like, six weeks right in the middle. Who does that?”
At this point, already feeling enough conviction to stop, I almost choked. You see, I knew EXACTLY why she had been away for six weeks in the middle of semester. And it was surely the most gossip-worthy piece of information I had ever come across in my life. It was the most juicy, tantalising, gasp-inducing morsel ever known to man.
I knew, however, that to share it would be going directly against God, who was heavily speaking to me through my consciense at that point. So I bit my lip and kind of grunted.
The conversation died and eventually turned to the topic of creepy men on trains…
But it was so painful. I’m ashamed to say that, but it was REALLY HARD to hold back.
It also made me realise that I really have a problem with this. For the first time, I couldn’t deny that I had said damaging things; that I had gossiped about someone who would have called me a friend. It forced me to look in the mirror and admit that it wasn’t all beautiful.
Another type of gossip that I do sometimes, but can be harder to identify, is “prayer-gossip”.
“Could you please pray for so-and-so, he’s really struggling with X at the moment.”
“I’ve been praying for A and B a lot, do you know how they’re going with …?”
“I’m really worried about Miss L, I saw her doing *****. We really need to be praying for her.”
Now, I’m not saying that all these things would be wrong all the time, but I know I have said these things at least once, and my motives were NOT pure. Really I just wanted to talk about other people.
I guess this is a tricky one because we do need to be praying for people, but maybe if we ask others to pray, we can stay brief on the details so it doesn’t become gossip.
I can’t remember where I read this recently, but someone wrote that there is a difference between gossiping and seeking counsel. Seeking counsel is looking for a solution to, not confirmation of, your problem with a person. Gossiping is jsut going round and round discussing the person, with no one really directing the conversation in godliness (although, it was probably stated more eloquently wherever I read it).
This has been a good principle for me because I think there are circumstances where we genuinely need advice and help, we can’t keep it to ourselves. I need to make sure that I choose someone to talk to who will challenge my assumptions and not let me get away with saying unnecessary comments.
In the Old Testament, Proverbs has a lot to say about gossip, including:
“A perverse man stirs up dissension, and a gossip separates close friends.”
The New Testament lists gossip among other sins:
“Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done. They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.”
How do you define gossip? And do you have any strategies for stopping this sin?