I remember being in youth group at church and playing the Gossip Game. We would sit in a circle and the youth pastor would whisper a sentence in someone’s ear and that person would tell the next person what they heard. It could only be said once – no repeats! That person would tell the next and around the circle we would go. Sometimes you knew what you just heard couldn’t have been the original statement, but you repeated it anyway. When it got to the last person they would tell the group what was told to them. The youth pastor would then tell the group what the original statement was. It was always funny to see what the original statement melded into after it was repeated and misconstrued multiple times. Although we laughed about it, there were some takeaways from it:
- If you want to know the original truth, go to the source
- When you repeat something you heard from someone who is not the originator, it probably shouldn’t be repeated
- If you hear something that sounds wrong, it probably is
What is gossip? Dictionary.com defines gossip as “idle talk or rumor, especially about the personal or private affairs of others.” Rumor is defined as “a story or statement in general circulation without confirmation or certainty as to facts; hearsay.” So, a gossiper would be someone who spreads unconfirmed stories about the personal or private affairs of others.
Have you ever been guilty of being a gossiper? Have you ever had anyone spread gossip about you? I would be willing to say that many of us, if we are honest, could say “yes” to both of those questions. It may have been when we were younger and in middle or high school. It may have happened at work at the water cooler. No matter which role you were in someone ended up getting hurt. I once worked in a business that had a “No Drama Policy.” We signed a document in which we acknowledged the guidelines that we would not create or participate in gossip or anything else that presented “drama.” Did it work? From the boss’ eyes, yes. However, there were still those groups of confidants that got together at lunch and shared their gossip. We can try and set boundaries to encourage certain behavior but, in the end, it’s all about the choices we make.
Go to the SOURCE
A supervisor once told me that if the person I was talking to couldn’t solve my problem, then I had no reason telling them my problem. That was very wise counsel that I have tried to adhere to in my adult life. I will admit that I’m not perfect and have suffered from not adhering to that wise counsel, which always ended up hurting someone. Second Corinthians 12:20 says, “For I am afraid that when I come I may not find you as I want you to be, and you may not find me as you want me to be. I fear that there may be discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, slander, gossip, arrogance and disorder.”
When you have an issue with a friend, co-worker, family member, or others, going to the source is not always the easiest road to take but it is the right road to take. Matthew 5:23-24 is a great reminder for us if someone is gossiping about us. It says, “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.” It takes a step of faith to confront your attacker, but, in the end, it is the right thing to do.
Don’t Spread It
It’s so easy to repeat something you hear, even if you know you shouldn’t. When my son was in elementary school, he came home and told me his teacher from the prior year was pregnant. I was so excited because she was wanting to start her family. A week later I saw her at school and excitedly congratulated her on her pregnancy. She responded with, “I’m not pregnant, I’ve just gained a lot of weight.” I wanted to go bury my head like an ostrich. I profusely apologized but my words could not be taken back. That is how gossip hurts people. Scripture is very clear on not spreading gossip.
Ephesians 4:29 says, Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”
Proverbs 10:18 says, “Whoever conceals hatred with lying lips and spreads slander is a fool.”
If It Sounds Wrong, It Probably Is
At the end of each round of the gossip game, it was always entertaining to watch the person who had to say what they thought they heard. Their face portrayed the confused “I know this is not right, but I don’t know what is right so I’m saying what I know is not right” look. In life, we know when we hear something that doesn’t sound quite right. Most of the time, it is a result of gossip. At any point, we get that “gut check” that something isn’t making sense, we should consult the source. Proverbs 10:19 says, “Sin is not ended by multiplying words, but the prudent hold their tongues.”
The best way to prevent incorrect information from spreading is to not repeat it! It sounds very easy to do but it can sometimes be a challenge. The next time you find yourself presented with an opportunity to gossip remember these things:
- Go to the source – confront the issue head on!
- Don’t spread it!
- If it sounds wrong, it probably is!
- Remember, “I can do ALL things through Christ Who gives me strength.” – Philippians 4:13