Listen: Chris Witts presents Morning Devotions.
In the world of the Navy, they have an interesting phrase: Loose lips sink ships. Ever heard of it? It’s an old statement going back a long time—a warning to people in the Navy not to give information to the enemy that may lead to sinking their ship. Unguarded speech may give useful information to the enemy.
Now, that’s a good illustration of the need to be careful with gossip. Gossip can be very destructive and hurtful, especially if you’re on the receiving end of some malicious and false news about yourself, and you wonder, Where did that come from?
A good definition of gossip is this: Gossip is saying something, even if it is true, with the intent to cause personal harm. By that definition, I guess we are all guilty of passing on information which, while it may be true, is not necessary nor is helping anyone. It’s best not to say anything rather than be a gossip.
Have you been on the receiving end of hurtful talk? It’s not okay, is it? It seems that gossip is one of the most common problems at work. Discussion can easily turn to gossip and is destructive and a relationship killer, and it happens more often than we realise. There is nothing good about gossip at all, and it usually hurts the person under gossip and those who share the gossip.
Gossip is all over the place. It is on mobile phones, text messaging, emails and Facebook. And it’s not just through technology, but it happens in our homes. It happens with our neighbours. It happens at the office. It happens in our small groups, and the list goes on and on and on. Gossip is all over the place, and it is destroying people’s lives sometimes slowly and sometimes not so slowly, and we need to overcome it!
What Scripture says about gossip
So, what does God’s word have to say about gossip? The book of Proverbs has some pretty specific things to say about gossip:
- “A gossip goes around telling secrets, but those who are trustworthy can keep a confidence.” (Proverbs 11:13 – NLT)
- “A troublemaker plants seeds of strife; gossip separates the best of friends.” (Proverbs 16:28 – NLT)
- “A gossip goes around telling secrets, so don’t hang around with chatterers.” – (Proverbs 20:19 – NLT)
- “Fire goes out without wood, and quarrels disappear when gossip stops.” (Proverbs 26:20 – NLT)
I think a good question to ask yourself is: If I’m talking about someone, why am I doing it? Is it to help them or make myself look and feel good?
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I thought Rick Warren gave a great definition of gossip and how we know when we are gossiping. He said this:
When we are talking about a situation with somebody who is neither part of the problem or part of the solution, then we are probably gossiping.
When you think about words, statistics say we speak about one-fifth of our entire lives. The average person has over thirty conversations a day. That would fill up in a year 66 books at 800 pages a book—each year. Crazy, huh? There are lots of opportunities to make mistakes.
“The tongue can bring death or life; those who love to talk will reap the consequences.” (Proverbs 18:21 – NLT)
I want to read a poem called “My Name Is Gossip”. It goes like this:
My name is Gossip.
I have no respect for justice.
I maim without killing.
I break hearts and ruin lives.
I am cunning and malicious and gather strength with age.
The more I am quoted the more I am believed.
I flourish at every level of society.
My victims are helpless.
They cannot protect themselves against me because I have no name and no face.
To track me down is impossible.
The harder you try, the more elusive I become.
I am nobody’s friend.
Once I tarnish a reputation, it is never the same.
I topple governments and wreck marriages.
I ruin careers and cause sleepless nights, heartaches and indigestion.
I make innocent people cry in their pillows.
Even my name hisses. I am called Gossip.
I make headlines and headaches.
What to do when faced with gossip
Gossip is a serious matter since people’s reputations can be destroyed in seconds. Try and avoid people who share gossip and don’t give them any opportunities for them to spread it:
- Leave the room when gossip starts
- Don’t respond to questions about opinions on others or other traps
- Change the topic whenever you see a conversation leading to gossip. Politely say that you would prefer to talk about that person when they are present.
There’s a story from the Jewish faith of a man who had told so many malicious untruths about the local rabbi that, overcome by remorse, he begged the rabbi to forgive him: And, Rabbi, tell me how I can make amends. The rabbi sighed, Take two pillows, go to the public square and there cut the pillows open. Wave them in the air. Then come back. The rumour-monger quickly went home, got two pillows and a knife, hastened to the square, cut the pillows open, waved them in the air and hastened back to the rabbi’s chambers: I did just what you said, Rabbi! The rabbi smiled: Good! Now, to realise how much harm is done by gossip, go back to the square and collect all your feathers.
What can we do? We can ask God for help. James in his epistle says that no man has tamed the tongue. He doesn’t say that God can’t help us tame the tongue. In our power and our strength, we won’t be able to do it. But with God’s power and God’s strength, we can go a long way towards taming the tongue. In the book of Psalms David has this prayer:
Take control of what I say, O Lord,
and guard my lips.
Don’t let me drift toward evil
or take part in acts of wickedness. (Psalm 141:3-4 – NLT)
If we started to live our lives praying that prayer on a regular basis—God, help me set a guard over my mouth and watch my lips so that what I say doesn’t lean towards evil—imagine what God would do in our lives. Ask for God’s help.