Pssst! Thank God for Gossip
Whether it’s around the home, the office, the workplace, or the church, gossip is frowned upon. In fact, those who gossip should have a bright yellow “G” sewn onto their blouse or shirt. Shouldn’t they?
Not so fast. What if I told you gossip does have some social and psychological value? That seems to fly in the face of everything we have been taught to believe and experience in our everyday life.
An "Official" Bad Reputation
Despite the fact that many of us might perk up our ears to get a juicy tidbit passed along in gossip, the practice has been socially unacceptable since the 1600's when “scolds,” as they were called, had to wear metal masks that prevented them from talking. And the Bible has numerous scriptures discouraging those who would gossip, and is not real subtle in its criticism of those who would gossip.
One of the strongest admonitions of the practice is found in the Letter of James 3:5-6. He writes, “Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.”
Any Redeeming Qualities?
Gossip is defined as idle talk and reports about personal or private affairs passed along about other people, usually involving details that are not necessarily true or confirmed. A gossip is the one who passes along the information.
As a social phenomenon, the practice brings people together and facilitates the sharing of information. This can be a good thing, depending on the veracity of the information passed along, the tone of the person speaking, and the speaker’s intention.
In a broader context, it serves a bonding function in larger groups, allowing individuals to connect with each other and form smaller groups.
By listening in on gossip, you may also learn something new and useful. You might discover new ways of doing things and how to avoid bad behavior and poor decision-making. You might also learn what is socially acceptable and what is not accepted by hearing about other’s experiences.
Pluses and Minuses
Of course, there’s two sides to the gossip coin. On the one side, you can benefit in a number of ways by hearing gossip. In some ways, it is the glue that holds society together. On the flip side of the gossip coin, it could be the force that slowly tears apart the fabric of a group. You also have to be aware of the chance that you could be the topic and target of the gossip someday, for better or worse.
Listen to God's Words
Do not go about spreading slander among your people. Do not do anything that endangers your neighbor’s life. Leviticus 19:16
Without wood a fire goes out; without a gossip a quarrel dies down. Proverbs 26:20
May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer. Psalm 19:14
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. Ephesian 4:29
In the Words of Others
“The only time people dislike gossip is when you gossip about them.” Will Rogers
“Strong minds discuss ideas, average minds discuss events, weak minds discuss people.” Socrates
“If you haven’t got anything nice to say about anybody come sit next to me.” Alice Roosevelt Longworth
“Some say our national past time is baseball. Not me. It’s gossip.” Erma Bombeck
Think About It
Think of an instance when you heard someone gossiping. What was your first reaction? Did you listen? What was your overall reaction to the experience?
Have there been times when you listened to someone gossip and you learned something positive and useful? What did you learn?
When you hear someone gossiping, do you consider the person’s reason for passing along the information and the tone of the gossip? How has that made a difference in your reaction?