The Dangers of Gossip — Morning Devotions - Hope 103.2

The Dangers of Gossip — Morning Devotions

It seems to be a fairly common pass-time, but should we be allowing ourselves to gossip, even if it's true?

By Chris WittsThursday 17 Nov 2022Morning Devotions with Chris WittsFaithReading Time: 1 minute

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Do you ever engage in gossip? What, me? I never gossip, you say. There’s almost a sense of that’s not fair to say that of me! But do you know that most of us engage in gossip?

Gossip, however you define it, is everywhere. One psychologist said, “It’s like breathing; it’s so much a part of our day that we don’t realise we’re doing it”. In his research, he found that as much as 65% of people’s conversations could be defined as gossip.

A woman repeated a bit of gossip about a friend. Within a few days the whole community knew the story. The person it concerned was deeply hurt and offended. Later, the woman responsible for spreading the rumor learned that it was completely untrue. A courageous person confronted her by telling a simple story. She said:

A few days ago I went to the marketplace and purchased a chicken. On my way home I plucked its feathers and dropped them one by one along the road. That night after I was making some good fried chicken I was thinking to myself, I wish I would have saved all those feathers. So the next day, I tried to go back and collect all those feathers I dropped. However, the wind had blown all the feathers away. After searching for hours, I returned with only three feathers in my hand. You see, it’s easy to drop them, but it is impossible to get them back. So it is with gossip.

What is Gossip?

So what is gossip? Telling another person something about someone without permission that may or may not be true. Why gossip? People gossip for many different reasons, such as revenge or jealousy, often to get back at someone for a wrong done to them. Sometimes it’s a fight for power because of insecurity in an effort to show how one is better than someone.

Primarily gossip is rooted in the sin of pride, possibly to show how much you know about someone else. Do you ever wonder why the newspaper and gossip columns are so popular? Pride lies to us and makes us believe that you might make more friends because of the dirt we know about another, but instead it leaves us with more enemies. Some stoop so low as to make a hobby out of gossip because of the joy they receive from it.

“Death and life are in the power of the tongue,” (Proverbs 18:21)

How can gossip be disguised? Gossip can be disguised as truth. Just because it’s true doesn’t give you a right to spread it. It can be a call for help. If so ask the source if they need assistance, then go to a wise friend. In Christian circles it can be a prayer request. This can be very dangerous and not only hurt someone emotionally, but also spiritually.

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And it can be disguised as sarcasm. A mixture of truth wrapped in humour at someone else’s expense can be a hurtful means of gossip. In the Bible we have this intriguing verse from Proverbs 26:18-19: ”It’s no crazier to shoot sharp and flaming arrows than to cheat someone and say, I was only fooling!” And Proverbs 11:12-13 says: “A man who lacks judgment derides his neighbour, but a man of understanding holds his tongue. A gossip betrays a confidence, but a trustworthy man keeps a secret.”

Gossip is Very Damaging

What is the damage of gossip? As the Apostle James says in James 3:6, “The tongue is like wind in a forest fire.” Gossip can tarnish a reputation, ruin families, wreck your job, split a church, and break relationships. The cost of gossip can be immeasurable.

And the greatest example of unkind words that I can think about are words of gossip. Now, let’s be very clear in our understanding here. Gossip is not putting someone down to their face. It is not talking about someone behind their back in a complimentary way. Gossip is saying negative things about a person when they are not present. It can also involve the telling of a truth, which does not need to be told, for the purpose of hurting someone.

Sometimes gossip involves simply asking questions like, Is George faithful to his wife? We even mask gossip in ‘religious activity’ like sharing a prayer request about something that was not intended for public knowledge. Sometimes we gossip by saying nothing when we hear things that we know are not true and say nothing to correct them.

Gossip Needs an Audience

We also promote gossip by simply listening to it—remember, there can be no gossip if there are no listening ears. People won’t gossip to you unless they believe you enjoy hearing it. And I want to be sure to point out that one of the most popular modes of gossip these days is through email.

And James is right on the money here when he compares our words to poison because gossip does spread uncontrollably—mainly because we find it easy to believe bad things. In fact, I believe that thanks to our sinful nature we tend to believe bad things easier than we do good ones. Gossip is also very destructive because people expand on what they hear until the rumour gets worse and worse—spreading like a fast-growing cancer.

Our words can be very destructive. They can lower morale and destroy the characters of innocent people. Cynical words can promote doubt and disbelief. Negative words can promote depressive moods. Relationships can be poisoned by words slipped into one’s conversation. Proverbs 18:21 is very accurate when it says, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue.” No wonder David prayed in Psalm 141:3, “Set a guard over my mouth, O Lord; keep watch over the door of my lips.”