Sunday, January 27, 2008

Thoughts on Gossip

MSNBC came out with an article this fall stating that more people are swayed by gossip than the truth. This is not surprising considering we live in a time where it seems that there is a new celebrity gossip magazine at the checkout line every time I am at the grocery store. Our culture thrives on gossip and being in peoples lives. The rise of reality television is a sad testament to that fact. We are obsessed with peoples lives, right down to the type of drink they order at Starbucks.

While this may seem like an abstract article to the average churchgoer, the sad fact is that it directly applies to us. We too are more swayed by gossip than the truth. Rather, if we were really honest with ourselves; often we are the gossipers hindering the truth from going forward. It is true that statistics always have a margin of error, and there really is no telling how accurate the article truly is, but it still made me think. Unfortunately, I have on a number of occasions found myself being the proud producer of gossip. Suddenly that “prayer request” becomes a fifteen minute speculation session on the life of the recently divorced mother.

Pride is essentially at the root of gossip. I know the rush I feel when I am “in the know.” And I have had the desire to fit into a conversation, or, tragically, attempt to destroy someone’s reputation. Gossip has devastating and lasting consequences, especially if the gossip is not even true.

In thinking about gossip and its consequences, three things came to mind. The effect gossip has on the Body, the effect gossip has on the outside world, and the effect gossip has on the Gospel.

Gossip tears down the work of the Gospel in a person’s life and destroys the Body of Christ. If the information is untrue, or even distorted, it is painting the particular person in a light that is not reflective of Christ’s redemptive work. In essence, it is destroying the person’s reputation, and it is completely unnecessary. If the information is true, it can be divisive and have lasting consequences on the people in the direct line of attack. Regardless of the truth of the matter, the Bible never condones gossip, but gives specific instructions for how we are to behave and handle situations with our fellow believers. There are many split churches and ruined relationships all because of a seemingly harmless conversation over a cup of coffee during the fellowship time.

Our gossiping tongues destroy our witness. James tells us that blessings and curses cannot proceed out of the same mouth. They can’t because it cancels out what is being said. If we seek a thrill in knowing and spreading gossip about a person rather than knowing and spreading Christ we are confusing our witness. If we love knowing about a couple’s big break-up more than we love the souls of the affected couple, what does that say about our commitment to Christ and His Bride? Our obsession with always being “in the know” says far more about our understanding of the Gospel than we like to think. What message would we send to the unsaved community around us if we spent our Wednesday night fellowship dinners and Sunday afternoon lunches bearing one another’s burdens rather than talking about the latest “news”?

Gossip effects the Gospel by making Christ look less glorious than he really is. If our conversations are filled with other peoples business, people begin to look more valuable than the Creator of those people. When information surfaces about a person our minds should immediately go towards the Gospel and how the Gospel can be applied to the situation, but so often we are drawn into the idol of information, rather than the Savior. Gossip makes knowledge look like our treasure, rather than the Gospel.

If our hand attacked our head with a knife, we would die, or be seriously incapacitated. And that is exactly what gossip does to a body of believers. It kills and incapacitates for effective ministry. So often in my own life it seems so harmless to give an “update” on a friend, when I am really passing on information for the sake of being the one knowing the information to begin with. Instead, my life should so be characterized by a deep concern for people that when I hear gossip I don’t react with the typical “oh, that is so interesting” followed by a series of follow-up invasive questions. Rather, my life should reflect one of humility and compassion, so when I hear of the failed marriage or unplanned pregnancy, I don’t react with pride and scorn, but respond with tears and prayer.

As Christians, our lives should be characterized by truth, not lies, because we know and have been saved by the Truth—Jesus Christ. And we should be quick to remember that this One who has redeemed us was the most gossiped about of all. As we seek to become more conformed into the image of Christ, let us resolve this year to be less like the world, and more like our Savior—who never reviled back and is always true.


Sara said...

Thank you for your post. I just have a question about gossip within a family circle. My family and I are close but sometimes I feel guilty because if, for instance, my sister is away at college, my parents and other siblings and I, will talk about the disappointing things my sister does or has done. Or the things that we aren't proud of done by her. And the same thing happens when I'm gone. So my question is, is it still gossip if family members talk about another family member? Does this situation change the definition of gossip? I don't want to do it if it is wrong. I like your insight in your posts so it would be nice to hear you talk about this question. Thanks!

Donald said...

Amen! That is such a refreshing reminder of pursuing Godly character with our conversation and the way we speak of others. Thank you!

2520 said...

Thank you Courtney for posting this! I am so helped by your post. I can't wait to see you this weekend--YES! Love you lots and lots!


cdt said...


Thank you so much for reading and for your comments. Forgive me for my tardiness in responding.

This is always a hard area to navigate. My family is close, too. We are very open with each other and if someone thinks something about a decision made, we all know it.

That said, I think that if the family is seeking advice from each other about how to handle a disappointing action from a member, that it would not be gossip. To "vent" or complain for the sake of talking about it would be gossip. Also, we should always be honest about our feelings. If a sibling is sinning, or making some disappointing decisions we should confront them and talk with them about it. I don't think it is wrong, or gossip, for family to lovingly navigate through proper ways to handle a wayward sibling. But, if there is no end result to the talk, i.e. seeking reconciliation or dialogue, than I would encourage you to be open with your sibling.

So much of our issues are heart issues. I would ask yourself: what is my motive for talking about this with my family? Is it restoration, or simply to talk?

I hope this helps. Thank you for reading.

In Christ,