Gossip and Idle Chatter

The trouble, pain, hurt feelings, and ruined relationships from gossip and unhealthy conversation has been felt by virtually every person I know. Unfortunately, in today’s world of reality shows and social media, it seems as though this is an accepted way of life, not the awful sin that causes terrible destruction in many lives. Maybe that’s why the Book of Proverbs is full of verses about gossip and unhealthy conversation.
Proverbs 4:24
24 Keep your mouth free of perversity; keep corrupt talk far from your lips.

Proverbs 10:8
The wise in heart accept commands, but a chattering fool comes to ruin.
Proverbs 10:19 -21
When words are many, sin is not absent, but he who holds his tongue is wise.
20 The tongue of the righteous is choice silver, but the heart of the wicked is of little
value. 21 The lips of the righteous nourish many, but fools die for lack of sense.
Proverbs 11:13
A gossip betrays a confidence, but a trustworthy man keeps a secret.
Proverbs 16:28
A perverse man stirs up dissension, and a gossip separates close friends.
Proverbs 17:28
Even a fool is thought wise if he keeps silent, and discerning if he holds his tongue.
Proverbs 20:19
A gossip betrays a confidence; so avoid a man who talks too much.
Proverbs 26:20
Without wood a fire goes out; without gossip a quarrel dies down.

            And there are many more similar verses. Let us clarify what we are discussing when we refer to gossip. Webster’s Dictionary defines gossip as:

  • Information about the behavior and personal lives of other people,
  • A person who often talks about the private details of other people's lives.

            Why is gossip so appealing, and why does Proverbs spend so much time on a subject that we know to be wrong?
According to PBS Kids website the top reasons are:

  • To feel superior

When people are feeling bad about themselves, they tend to think they might feel better if there was someone worse off than they.

  • To feel like a part of a group

When others are gossiping or spreading rumors, some might feel they must do the same in order to fit in.

  • For attention

When you know a secret that nobody else knows or are the first person in your group to hear a rumor, it presents the opportunity to become the center of attention.

  • For control of power

Certain people always want to be in control or at the top of their social ladder. You probably know at least one person who needs to be the leader or has to make all decisions!

We all know it is seriously wrong to engage in discussing intimate facts or revealing rumors about someone who is not a part of the conversation. Not only is it wrong but it never leads to any positive results, only more gossip, and hurt. You have a choice to participate or not! If we are in a conversation and people begin talking negatively about someone else, what should we do? There are several ways to address this. You can change the subject immediately and begin a new topic. You can defend the person being discussed, perhaps by talking about this person’s good points, or giving them the benefit of the doubt. However, if you really want to address this in a meaningful way, then tell people that you do not feel comfortable talking about this person, and do not want to be included in the conversation (the chances of you being invited to the next gossip session go down drastically with this approach).
Being involved in a conversation that is unhealthy only brings problems for everyone involved and it can have a terribly negative effect on your character. Terrible and vulgar comments are epidemic on social media. I know of professed Christians that have posted awful language and comments. We need to be especially careful on social media to avoid gossip and to be encouraging. Our lights can still shine brightly especially on social media sights.
My wife, Neddy, worked at a children’s daycare for many years. One day, another teacher assigned to her class was late. The kids were particularly difficult, and my wife was frustrated. Additionally, when the other teacher arrived, instead of going straight to the classroom to help my wife she went to the office next door to enjoy some small talk with the supervisor, which caused her even more frustration. When the teacher did finally go to the classroom, Neddy told her in a less-than-polite way that the children were difficult and she needed help. Eventually, the teacher left the room again and went in to discuss with the supervisor what she perceived as my wife’s negative attitude. What they did not know was that my wife could hear them as they asked each other things like “What’s was wrong with Neddy?” discussing how she did not have to act that way, that she was being inappropriate and rude, and so on. Needless to say, my wife was infuriated and soon let everyone know it (including myself that evening), and all because of unnecessary gossip. My wife never forgot this the relationship between her and the two people involved were never the same.

One of the issues with gossip and unhealthy conversation is that you are drawn in quickly, and before you know it you have become part of the problem. One rule of thumb is that you should not say anything about anyone at any time that you would not say directly to their face.
If someone wants to tell you how much someone else is disturbing them, direct them to go to that person to discuss the matter, or volunteer to go with them for this discussion. Most of us probably heard our mothers say that there are three questions we should ask ourselves when giving input in a conversation…

  1. Is it true?
  2. Is it kind?
  3. Is it necessary?

            If someone asks you if you can you keep a secret, your answer should be, “No, I am just like you. I can’t!”
 Again Christ says in Luke 1b-3
 “Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy.
2 There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known.
3 What you have said in the dark will be heard in the daylight, and what you have whispered in the ear in the inner rooms will be proclaimed from the roofs.

            Idle chatter and gossip have caused more hurt and suffering than we can imagine. Make a decision today not to be part of this.