As I type this, there are three ladies right next to me that are assassinating reputations.
Some girl they all know can’t keep a job. Another common friend is always complaining about everything. One of the girls’ boyfriends is selfish, and his mother makes Jezebel look like the Proverbs 31 woman. They have probably talked about over a dozen people whom, if they were standing here in my place, would be in a puddle of tears. It is grossing me out. But now I’m thinking about my conversations over the past weeks and suddenly I’m grossed out with myself.
Gossip is seen as inevitable in our day and age. People are so bored with their own lives that they must talk about everyone else in order to have a conversation that lasts longer than 5 minutes. TV shows, Magazines and blogs use the word in their title as a positive.
Gossip is something that we all struggle with, but it is something we must fight as hard as the sins we deem unacceptable. Matthew 12:36 says “I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak”; we must take it seriously and fight to kill this sin in our lives.
As I’m sitting here listening to these ladies, and rethinking my own careless words there are several truths about gossip that are coming to mind.
It murders reputations
I can’t imagine a scenario where, if the people these ladies are talking about were to hear what was said about them, that they would ever have another conversation with them, not just because of anger, but embarrassment. In order for us to decide to start killing this sin in our lives, we must recognize it as evil.
Gossip is murder. There is nothing that screams, “I hate you” more than speaking badly about someone behind their back. And John tells us that when we hate our brother, we are murderers (1 John 3:15). In fact, we must realize, if we believe James 2:10, that one act of gossip truly condemns us to an eternity in hell. Gossip is evil because it destroys people’s reputations. Gossip is rebellion towards God. The Bible tells us that God hates gossip (Psalm 101:5) and will destroy the gossiper.
As I’m sitting here, these ladies could care less who hears them. There are probably over a dozen quiet people around them, listening to their conversation, and it hasn’t dawned on them that they are doing it. To them it’s just another day in the office. And it’s fascinating to think about conversations I’ve had over the years, and realize that I too have had no shame as I shattered other people’s reputations.
It has become so accepted that it is not shameful at all. Romans 1:29-32 warned us about this. In fact, it has gotten so bad that we vote for people who make slander their way of life. Every time I share the Gospel, especially on college campuses, I get shocked more and more about what sins people are willing to admit that they partake in. They have no shame. Sins that are about as gross as you can imagine. If they are willing to admit to those, I can’t imagine how much the sin of gossip is approved. We must be different. We must rescue the shame of gossip in our hearts.
It is justified
For some reason, it is one of the sins we most often excuse in our own minds. We think we need to talk about it since we know and care about so-and-so, but our talking about it cannot fix the problem. We think that as leaders or since it affects us, we can verbally express frustrations and complain about someone to someone else.
Although we attempt to justify other sins as well, gossip is one that we have an easier time convincing ourselves that it’s okay. We may preface statements with, “We need to pray for so-and-so!”, or “Have you heard about so-and-so? Someone should talk to them!” We are constantly talking about other people. And while at times it is necessary if you’re in leadership, far too often we slander people under the guise of “shepherding”. We mustn’t justify sins that Christ shed his blood over.
It is insecurity about ourselves
Philippians 1:15-18 talks about men who spoke out against Paul. Perhaps they saw his imprisonment as an opportunity to climb the ladder of church leadership. Paul calls it selfish ambition. It’s the desire to rise the ranks by taking other people down.
With gossip, you cheat. Instead of winning “the game” by throwing more touchdowns than the other team, you win by trying to injure as many players on the other team and hoping they have to forfeit. It is a declaration of inability.
Perhaps we want the person listening to think worse about someone so that by comparison, we will look better. Perhaps we want to be known as the ones with the juicy scoop on everything. Regardless, it is a prideful desire that springs from discontentment with who God made us, and what He has given us. It is a shaking of the fist at God. Instead, we should be thankful for the way He made us, and be thankful for the opportunities He gives us to glorify Him. And rejoice with how he has made others as well.
It’s the sin of comparison
When a religion is works-based, it thrives on comparing one’s self to other people. As long as you find someone on earth who is worse than you, you can appease your conscience. Christians act the same way when they gossip. They find sins and attitudes that they find repugnant and consider those worse than their own. They forget that if any human being got their hands on a video depicting their own thoughts and actions of the past week, they would be mortified. And rather than focusing on themselves, or even better, going to the person and helping them, they go to someone else and deliver the juicy news.
It takes two to tango
The gossiper needs a listener. He can talk to himself about other people all he wants, but it only becomes gossip when he has an audience.
This is the antidote to gossip. Don’t listen to it. Change the subject. Call them out on their gossip. Chances are, if they gossip to you, they are probably talking about you to someone else. The righteous man in Psalm 15:3 will not believe or even entertain gossip. He shuts it down.
Proverbs 20:19 reminds us, “Whoever goes about slandering reveals secrets; therefore do not associate with a simple babbler.” In order to protect the Church from serious problems, we have to fight against the sin of gossip, and we must destroy the gossiper that lives within our hearts.
In conclusion, we must remember that simply not gossiping will not solve the problem. Of course the saying, “if you have nothing nice to say, say nothing at all” is a helpful start but it will not fix the problem. We must see each human being as not a means to an end, but rather as a soul that we will either spend eternity with, or someone who must be evangelized, not gossiped about. We also must remind ourselves of the importance of prayer. If a story is juicy enough to talk about, then the person probably needs someone to pray for them, and instead of talking to another mere mortal, let’s talk to the Creator of the universe who can actually do miracles. And ultimately we must speak kind words about others. As Paul reminds us in Ephesians 4:29, “Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.”