It tends to eat us like a monster, devouring the positive things we believe about people, the reputation of others in our eyes and even whole relationships. Even if convicted, as desperately as you might try, you cannot escape it. Whether at work or a family function or wherever you may find yourself, one of the statements you will hear the most is, “So, have you heard about so-and-so?”
Gossip really is a driving force in our society. With it, we can either boost our own self image and pride at the expense of another, or we can listen closely and be entertained by sensational information about somebody we know or even a stranger; we tend not to make any distinctions, a story is a story. This is an especially huge problem with women; at least 60% or more of the conversations I hear have to do with someone who is not present.
It is a hard thing to own up to, but gossip is something I personally struggle with as well. I would like to blame it on gender tendencies and the fact that women are simply more personal and tend to talk more about, well, people…but really, it is primarily due to the fact that I can be prideful, conceited and looking for easy entertainment. I can have the most bitter speech. It is horrible!
It has become such a common theme in society that even when confronted about talking about someone who is not present, many people respond with, “Oh, it is just a bit of gossip.” But is gossip truly as harmless as people make it out to be? The Bible says in Matthew 12:36-37, “But I tell you that everyone will have to give account on the day of judgement for every empty [careless] word they have spoken. For by your words you will be acquitted and by your words you will be condemned.”
Does it seem like the Lord thinks careless gossip is harmless? The Bible talks about gossip and malicious speech in a multitude of places, such as James 1:26 which says, “Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless.” Ouch. So, when I gossip or let my tongue run rampant and mar the reflection of Christ, what I’m doing is absolutely worthless and I’m failing to be a representation of Christ? No, gossip is not harmless.
So what is a Christian woman (or man, I know men do not struggle with this quite as much [no, that is not being sexist, it is being truthful about gender differences], but we all fall in this way at some point) to do? Even if we have the best of intentions, we still fall prey to this monster called a sinful tongue or we are surrounded by people caving in. I still fall prey to gossip and am called to repent consistently, but I want to share a few practical tips that have been helping me as I struggle with the strength Christ gives to overcome this sin.
So frequently, gossip comes because we feel like we must add something to the conversation. Just so you all know…you don’t. If you feel like the only thing you can add is to further the conversation about someone or that you will be falling to temptation by adding something, simply abstain.
Change the subject.
You do not have to stay on the same subject for the rest of the conversation! Wait for a good transition sentence, and then start off on a whole new subject. Besides, there are so many things that are more interesting than talking about someone’s flaws.
If you feel yourself being drawn in, leave the conversation. Maybe this means that you need to leave a group text (hint hint fellow college students) that has taken a nasty turn. Maybe this means that if you cannot keep a pure mind while being involved in some coworkers’ conversation, you turn to different tasks at work. Maybe this means checking the time on your watch or phone and letting them know that you need to get started on something or be somewhere (home with the word of God or something uplifting is starting on something and it is being somewhere).
Flip it to a positive.
Something that has helped me when I am stuck in a conversation that is completely revolving around negative speech about someone else is to flip a statement from someone else into a positive. Having others perceive you as naive here truly is a gift in this context. For example, if someone says something along the lines of, “She sure likes it when everyone around her knows exactly how great her kids are,” you could reply with, “Yeah, I love how much she loves them! You can tell she just adores what has been given to her.” Really corny scenario, but you get the idea.
Check your motivation.
This final point has possibly been the most important in my personal life. Before you open your mouth to add to a conversation, think about why you want to say whatever is on your brain. Is it because it will cut down another person, add a juicy detail or boost your own self? Or is it because it will add good information, clear up confusion, be edifying, encouraging or intellectual? Proverbs 13:3 says, “Those who guard their lips preserve their lives, but those who speak rashly will come to ruin.” Therefore, make sure you have godly motivation behind your words.
May these tips fare you well in your struggle against gossip, and let us be the uplifters in our conversations instead of the ones dragging people down.