DID YOU HEAR ABOUT . . .?
LET’S PUT AN END TO GOSSIP
I don’t know whether it is a result of aging but I do find I need additional reminders lately. How about you? Some constant reminders in my den area are along three of its walls and directly above my telephone. They are reproductions of the proverbial moneys, See no evil; hear no evil; and speak no evil. These mnemonic devises serve to remind me not to speak or listen to gossip.
Although I am ashamed to confess those times I have found myself listening to follies of others even though I was aware that this was a sinful practice!! In fact, the Apostle Paul lumped gossipers right in with murderers when he wrote: “Their lives become full of every kind of wickedness, sin, greed, hate, envy, murder, malicious behavior, and gossip.” (Romans 1:29 NLT) No doubt most of us can honestly plead ‘not guilty’ to murder, but what about gossip? We need to recognize that in the eyes of our Lord, passing on or listening to gossip is a sin!
But exactly what is gossip? Gossip is second or third hand information that someone dumps on you often without your prior consent and without the consent of the person being gossiped about. Gossip can be true, partially true, or completely false. It may or may not be passed on with evil intentions, but it most always is negative personal information about another that puts them in a bad light.
Although I have already confessed that I have listened to gossip in the past, at those times, the thought never really occurred to me how deeply a person and their family could be impacted when someone attacks their character without their knowledge or consent. I would aver that most people who consciously or unconsciously spread gossip never think about this either! Nor do they always realize that what they are doing is engaging in gossip. Regardless, gossip violates our Lord’s own maxim: “Do unto others that which you would have done on to you”. It is important to realize that one does not have to operating with malice to be guilty of gossip. The motive is irrelevant; gossiping is a SIN!
Most of us know what gossip usually sound like. It usually begins with something like this, “Did you hear about such and such …” The rest of it goes on to put an individual in a shameful or negative light.
Recognizing that BOTH the speaker and listener are engaging in a sinful practice, how can we avoid being caught up in it? I have found that one potential squelcher is to stop the speaker right after you hear the phrase: “Did you hear what Janet did…” and ask the speaker, “Did you talk to Janet about …” Even if the answer is yes, which seldom is, your next response should be “then I do not need to hear about it!” If they haven’t spoken to Janet, sometimes they may suggest that they wanted to tell you so you could talk to Janet, as you know her better than they. Sometimes this may be true; but it is always preferable to stress that they are the ones to tell Janet, as you did not hear the original report and aren’t really familiar with the facts.
The important factor is that you need to avoid being an accomplice in their sin. If you clearly express the fact that you do not want to listen to any gossip, the word will get around of your preference and you will be less likely to be approached as a willing listener.
It is unlikely that your refusal to listen will stop the frequent gossiper from spreading tales to others but it sometimes presents us with an opportunity to delineate why we do not want to participate in it either as a speaker or a listener. Salient points to be raised with the gossiper: “Would you want someone telling a similar story about you?” “How would his/her family or friends feel when hearing about this account?” Most gossipers seldom have considered either of these questions and it is vital that they do so; if we really want to at least partially stop the vicious sin of gossip!