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Thursday, August 21, 2014

Girlfriend Gossip

Relevant Ministry Blog Schedule:
Tuesday - "About Spiritual Health in Life and Ministry"

Thursday - "About Relevant Women"

by Cyndi Coleman
A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to speak at our women's Bible study. When I accepted, I did so with a previously written lesson in mind. I originally thought, “How awesome. I will use the lesson I prepared for a women’s retreat last spring. I may need to tweak it, but no big deal. Little work. Easy work. Done.” Or, so I thought. I tried and tried to tweak or adjust the lesson, but God clearly said, “Don’t you think you should ask me what I think?” Uh, oh… Obviously, with a question like that, the answer was clear, I was on the wrong path. So, he told me he wanted me to talk to the ladies about gossip. “Are you kidding me? No! I will not. I mean, that’s not really you, is it Lord? That is just some crazy thought in my head, right? They already know it’s bad. After all, everybody knows that. They’ll think I am judging them. Oh no! What if I have gossipped with some of them. How awkward.” I tried to talk my way out of it. However, God was persistent and so, I gave in and I nervously did research and with shaking hands and a rapid heartbeat I told the ladies what I discovered. 

And now, I will share it with you. I know, I know, I didn’t want to hear it either. I have to admit, what I found in Scripture can seem harsh and shocking!

I guess I have always considered gossip as the “little white lie” of sins. Sure, it’s wrong, well, sometimes, right? Okay, so, it’s wrong, but it’s not that big of a deal. Now, those of us who have felt the sting, or crushing blow of gossip realize that it wasn’t little or white or innocent...and yes, it was a very big deal!

So, what is your personal definition of gossip? Pause. Think about it for a minute. Now, what is gossip, exactly? 

I have often heard someone declare (mid-gossip-fest), this isn’t gossip; this is just the truth. In other words, if it’s true, it isn’t gossip. I  have heard many versions of what people say this word means, so I decided to look it up for the official definition. I hate to be the one to tell you that neither Merriam Webster nor the Bible ascribe a different definition or consequence depending upon whether or not the information is true or false. Merriam Webster’s online source defines gossip as follows:
  • Information about behavior and personal lives of other people 
  • Information about the lives of famous people
  • A person who often talks about the private details of other people’s lives
Related Words: betrayer, blabbermouth, informant, informer, snitcher, squealer, stool pigeon, tattler, tattletale; libeler, scandalmonger

Not a pretty picture for us, is it? Unfortunately, if we are all brave enough to be honest, we have been guilty of this. I know I feel very convicted!

So, you know, here’s what the Bible has to say. The Lord has some strong words on the subject. I first typed (into a Biblical search engine) the word “gossip.” Here are the verses that popped up:

  • Proverbs 11:13, “A gossip betrays a confidence, but a trustworthy person keeps a secret.” 
  • Proverbs 16:18, “A perverse person stirs up conflict, and a gossip separates close friends.”
  • Proverbs 18:8, “The words of a gossip are like choice morsels; they go down to the inmost parts.”
  • Proverbs 20:19, “A gossip betrays a confidence; so avoid anyone who talks too much.”
  • Proverbs 26:20, “Without wood a fire goes out; without gossip a quarrel dies down.”
  • Romans 1:29, “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.”

OUCH! I told you it was strong. The verse from Romans really hurt my feelings! There is more. The next three verses do not use the word “gossip,” but they certainly pertain to it. Take a look, then we’ll chat more about this touching subject.

James 2:26
“If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight reign on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless.” In other words, gossip will ruin your witness for Christ.

James 3:6
“The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.” So, when we gossip we do the work of Satan. Not exactly how I viewed it previously. How about you? I am not interested in helping that evil schemer out at all! I have felt the fire of gossip burn me because I told it, because I listened to it and because somebody else told it about me, and listened to it about me. When on the receiving end, it’s easier to see the evil, isn’t it?

James 4:17
“Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it, sins.” G.I. Joe used to say “Knowledge is power,” but in this case, knowledge becomes responsibility.

So, gossipping, obviously, is sinful. Even when it’s true. Even if “I was there and I saw it with my own eyes.” Even if “she would tell you this herself.” Even if “ I know she wouldn’t mind me saying…” Even when it is called a prayer request. Even if it is prefaced with, “Bless her heart,...”
Struggling with the reality of the sin of gossip.  I want to encourage you to refer back to the definition should you doubt me; then proceed back through the Bible verses. I am not pointing my finger at you! I am shamefully admitting my guilt!

So, why do we view this as small? Why is it tolerated? Think about it - gossip is as prevalent in the church as it is outside of the church. There have been countless members, pastors, and whole churches split over a root-problem of gossip. Marriages destroyed, friendships severed, hearts broken, jobs lost, our Savior slain, our reputations flogged, our spirits wounded, our emotions laid to rest. This is serious stuff, sister.

So, why? Why oh why do we do it? Should the truth be told, it is tolerated because we love it. Oh, yes we do! We feed on it like a shark feeding frenzies. We eagerly listen to the woes of others and sometimes we are almost joyful at their downfall - especially we think they deserve it. PRIDE ALERT!!! Yikes!

In an era consumed with selfies and pampering, we are so self-centered. What does that have to do with gossip??

When we spread or listen to the tales of others, we are able to avoid thinking about our own problems, stressors, and shortcomings. For just a minute, we are focused on someone else’s problems, stressors, and shortcomings. It makes us feel better about our own lives. If someone is having a drama similar to our own, well, we don’t feel so isolated. (Did I hear someone say, misery loves company?”) If someone else’s story is worse than our own, we tend to get caught thinking, “At least I don’t do…” “At least my kids aren’t…” “I would/have never…” The danger here is that we become puffed up with pride. Remember that pride is what got Satan kicked out of heaven. When we begin viewing ourselves as better than anyone else, pride’s seed is planted on the fertile soil of our souls. Once this seed begins to grow and flourish, our doom is secured, for Proverbs 16:18 says, Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.”

One of the trickiest things about gossip is that is so sneaky! It creeps into my thoughts and jumps out of my mouth before I even realize what has happened. It creeps into my ears and goes “down to my inmost parts” (Proverbs 18:8).

So, how can we avoid this terrible crime? Well, this is perhaps the hardest part. We do a LOT less talking and begin making exits and hang-ups. Not rudely, of course. Yeah, that will be uncomfortable and inconvenient and will take practice. Coming from a motor-mouth, myself, I assure you I KNOW this is hard! So, when you and your girlfriends are together, how do you avoid this? You have to talk about it before hand. Be proactive. Agree to hold each other accountable. The result? A lot less hurt, more trust, richer lives.

I have had only a few friends who were committed to help me with this in our friendship. That meant some things not shared. At times, it is hard to know where to draw the line. 

When does a concern for someone turn into gossip?
When does sharing your aches and pains of life with friends turn toxic?
How can you manage to avoid this collision when you can’t see it coming?

When you are intentional and mindful - no vigilant - it will become much easier. Also, if you pray about this topic, God will certainly help you to be obedient. Personally, I like to call the Holy Spirit my Holy Reminder and internal alarm system. If you seek to be obedient, God will honor your heart and help you. Will we still falter? Absolutely; however, God’s grace will be there and your girlfriend’s too. 

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1 comment:

  1. Great blog! Its the best explanation of gossip I have heard. Thanks for sharing.


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