Summary: This message answers 4 of the biggest questions about gossip, including what is gossip (and what’s acceptable conversation) as well as how to deal with someone wanting to share gossip with you.
1. When Is It Gossip And When Is It Acceptable Conversation?
“The difference is in motive and accuracy.”
- One struggle that people have is that they believe that “not gossiping” means ceasing to having any conversation about people and what’s going on in their lives. Most of us can’t do this - and for good reason: people are a huge part of our lives. The good news here is that stopping all conversation about people is not what God is asking us to do.
- We need to examine the accuracy of the information as well as our motives in telling the story.
- Concerning accuracy, if we’re not sure about the truth of the story, that should be enough to stop us from sharing it. If it’s something that were concerned about because someone that we love is involved, we should proceed not by sharing the unverified story, but by going to the person in question and sharing our concern. “I heard this and I wanted to make sure it wasn’t true.”
- For some people, though, the presumption is that if the accuracy of the information is confirmed, then sharing it is not gossip. “I’m just telling the truth,” they’ll say. But there’s a second factor at play and that is the motive we have in sharing the story. Even if a story is verified to be true, if we are sharing it with the motive to hurt the person, to taint their reputation, or just because we want to be the first to share the juicy news, our motive is bad.
- Here is an example. Let’s say I have a friend named Luke who has told me he is getting a divorce even though he’s only been married 6 months because his wife had an affair on him. Scenario #1: My heart is broken by his pain and by the knowledge that I have that marriage is a sacred covenant before God and therefore divorce pains Him. In my private prayer time, I shed some tears for Luke and his pain. Later that day, I see Lauren (a mutual friend of Luke and myself) and I share the news with her: “Luke shared with me that he is going to be getting a divorce. If you get a chance to talk to him, I think he could use a shoulder to cry on.” Notice I don’t share the salacious but unnecessary details about the affair. Notice also that I shared accurate information with a motive of helping Luke, not hurting him. Scenario #2: Having found out about Luke’s divorce, I am quick to share every detail with everyone from our workplace that I can talk to. My facts are accurate, but my motive is impure and my actions hurtful to Luke.
- So, it’s important that we both be sure that our information is accurate and that our motive is pure. Those two factors make up the difference between gossip and appropriate conversation.
2. Why Do We Gossip?
“We love our insider status more than we love people.”
- We seldom think about the implications for the person we’re gossiping about. Our thoughts are usually on being the first one to spread the news so that we’ll get (a) credit for being “in-the-know” and (b) others to share their gossip with us when they’ve got some.
- The simple but hard truth is that we are raising ourselves up by stomping others down. The simple but hard truth is that we are enhancing our own image without consideration that others must foot the bill. The simple but hard truth is that we are willing to destroy others’ reputations and lives in order to improve our standing.
3. Why Should We Change Our Words?
- Obviously, what we just talked about a moment ago hints at one good reason: that we should love people more than our insider status, but there are other reasons that directly apply to us.
A. “Realize that everything you say is being recorded.”
- I don’t mean that Big Brother is watching. I mean that God in heaven misses nothing. And Jesus tells us here that we are accountable for every word that we say.
- If you’ve been in a room and had someone pull out a cassette recorder or a video recorder, you know that you act differently when you know that you’re being recorded. Any lawyer can tell you that people answer questions differently when they know the stenographer is recording every word they say for the court record. We need to realize that we are also being “recorded” as God watches over us and notices our words.
B. “Understand that a loose tongue equals a useless religion.”