Growing up in a large family of southern women, I’ve heard my share of stories. There’s something about the heat, I guess, that makes us want to embellish things just a bit more. To make the conversation a little more interesting.
By the time I left my little humid nest and went out into life, I was quite the story teller. I could gab with the best of women, sharing tidbits and morsels of stories in ways that both entertained and kept them coming back for more. Over time, I began to see that –for many women—gossip was a way to connect, to get to know each other. We’d talk about others we knew, the funny things they did, and what made them seem odd to us. It’s as if agreeing about gossip somehow made us similar.
Until I came to know Christ.
One of the first things I noticed about the way I’d been living my life, was the stories I told, the gossip I shared. What had seemed like harmless girl talk suddenly made me sad to witness, and ashamed to share. It was as if a layer of myself had been stripped away to expose a raw part that was painful to see. I didn’t like this part of who I was. And, I began to wonder if I had been merely the sum of my gossipy stories.
As I began to remove myself from these conversations, I realized how much they’d infiltrated my life. I wasn’t as interesting as I’d once been. I had much less to say in conversations. And, there were some people in my life that I literally had nothing to talk about with anymore.
The ties that bound seemed to be stitched with morsels of gossip, and tantalizing snippets of other people’s lives. And as I pulled back from adding fuel to the fire, I began to see that I was on the outside, with nothing much to say.
As followers of Jesus, we are called to hold ourselves to a higher standard. To love at all times. And, while we’ve all read the “Love” verse in Corinthians as it relates to our marriages, what about when we consider it as it relates to how we love others by choosing not to gossip about their failures, their embarrassments, their shortcomings?
1 Corinthians 13:4-7 says:
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always preserves.
Through Christ, we are made to be more than we could be on our own. He has changed our hearts, our desires, and our very motives. When we give in to our gossip habit, our credibility is destroyed.
Getting a Grip on Gossip:
Talking about other people is not always gossip. Sometimes you may have a real issue that you need advice to work out. If there is an end goal in mind of working toward resolution, your conversation about another person may not be gossip. But, be aware of when it starts to feel as if you are being unkind in your representation of them—you may have crossed the line.
It distracts you from your calling. We are called to love, sisters. Most gossip is a form of berating someone for either something they’ve done, or simply the way they are. Speaking unkind words about or against someone is a direct opposition to what God has called you to do in that person’s life. What kind of positive effect could you be in the person’s life that you are talking about if you chose to talk to them instead of about them?
You may be using it to avoid your own issues. Let’s face it; talking about someone else’s issues is a whole lot easier than owning up to our own. If you tend to gossip frequently, do an inventory of your own life. What does pointing out other people’s problems do for you? Make you feel vindicated? More powerful? More accepted? Better about your own life?
Learn to listen with your whole heart. If you are the type of person that others come to share with, that is a wonderful thing. You have an opportunity to minister. Not only to the person being gossiped about, but to the gossiper. Often, the worst gossips do so because they are avoiding their own issues. Issues that maybe they could use a friend to talk about.
Use it to your advantage. Often when someone is being gossiped about, they may begin to feel that they can never experience true forgiveness. Yes, God has forgiven them. But, the rest of the world relishes a good story. Show grace to the person on the other side of the gossip. You may be the only one in their life who does.