Close your eyes and think back to the last thing you said about somebody: Was it a positive or negative statement? Was it something that you would be proud of or ashamed of?
In today’s world, communication has been taken to another level. Between high tech cell phones, Facebook, Twitter, blogging, personal Web sites, MySpace, and so on, we live in a time in which communication seems to be traveling almost as fast as the speed of light.
Because we are communicating at such a rapid speed, with Facebook updates and text messages being sent within seconds, are we really taking the time to contemplate what we are saying, what our content involves, and who we are allowing to see every statement that we make?
Personally, it seems like I know a lot more about people than I should, thanks to social media sites. I’ve seen all types of skeletons being thrown out of their proverbial closets in heated moments of debate. These turn into vicious battles, character assassinations and the like, instead of the dialogue being considered and discussed on an intelligent level.
People gossip and slander one another for many reasons. For some, it creates a sense of belonging and bonding with other gossipers. Others use self-righteous gossip to justify their own shortcomings; you may know the type, someone who points out the faults of others to hide their own sins, and thrives on discussing what the “other” person has done “wrong.” Either way, the enemy uses gossip and slander as a tool to cause division among people and within the church.
God tells us in Proverbs that death and life are in the power of the tongue and we will reap the fruit from the words that we speak. He makes it clear to His children that we should not indulge in gossip or smearing of any kind – from idle chatter to spreading rumors and passing judgment to deadly slander. Gossip is and will always be nothing more than time wasted on the faults and failures of others, in addition to the disclosing of potentially shameful or embarrassing facts about another person’s conduct or situation. With every word that we speak, especially when speaking of another person, we should first ask ourselves, “Are our words going to be a blessing or a curse on this person?”
The truth is we have all fallen into this negative behavior at one time or another in our lives. Sometimes we are the initiator of the gossip, and sometimes we are the victim; either way, people get hurt in the process. If you yourself or someone you know is caught up in this destructive behavior, seeking God’s wisdom on how to stop will help.
Proverbs 18:7-8 reads, “A fool’s mouth is his undoing, and his lips are a snare to his soul. The words of a gossip are like choice morsels; they go down to a man’s inmost parts.” The words we speak will either build up our life or destroy it, because our words affect every aspect of our existence, down to our innermost parts. Looking at Proverbs 10:18 we read, “He who conceals his hatred has lying lips, and whoever spreads slander is a fool.” If we go further, we will see in Proverbs 18:2, “A fool has no delight in understanding, but in expressing his own heart.” A wise person realizes that every conversation he engages in, whether with one person or a group, reveals his character, whereas a fool does not see this and isn’t teachable. We must remember that each conversation we have will create memories and an impression in the minds of those we interact with, and these memories will last in the minds of others through our lifetime – and even after our death, if we happen to pass before they do. How do you want people to remember you?
As Christians, we have the opportunity to shine our light the next time we encounter people speaking viciously about others and gossiping or slandering one another. If you are on the other side of the coin, and are not gossiping yourself but are surrounded by gossips, I encourage you to establish a “No-Gossip Zone,” whether in your personal or professional life. If you encounter a situation where someone is displaying this type of behavior, you can handle it in several different ways. First, you can choose to simply excuse yourself. Another option is to interject that you do not feel comfortable speaking about this person’s situation or actions, but recommend praying for them instead, at that very moment. You can also start complimenting and adding positive feedback about the person, or try to steer the conversation in a completely new direction.
If you happen to be around other Christians while this is taking place, you can share a direct quote from our Lord, Jesus Christ, that will get their attention, “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?” (Matthew 7:3). Whatever avenue you choose in creating your gossip-free zone, I firmly believe that your obedience to God’s word will be rewarded and honored.
Marisa is a contributing writer for The Good News, in addition to several other publications. Her published works can be read at: wordslingergal.wordpress.com, and she can be contacted at [email protected]