Reasons Not To Gossip

 

When I started this series on friendship, I knew that one thing I wanted to cover was gossip.

Up until recent years, I didn’t have that much experience with gossip – maybe it’s partially because I was homeschooled, and not all of my friends were in the same circles – and that cuts down on a lot of the opportunity to gossip. This was actually a pretty big blessing, because it made those growing up years so much more bearable.

But as I’ve grown older, gotten involved in a bigger church, and met more friends who all seem to know each other, I’ve noticed it more and more, and it becomes more and more of a temptation for me as well. But it has also become more apparent to me why this is such a big problem, and why it should be avoided for the sake of my friendships.

Maybe we should start with a definition.

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I like that definition, because I think it makes it clear not only what gossip is, but also what it is not.  If someone’s name comes up in a conversation and the conversation quickly turns to everything that’s going on in that person’s life?  That would be gossip, and it’s especially bad when the life occurrences that are mentioned happen to be more personal.  If it turns to what this person supposedly said to another person? That would be gossip too.

But if a person’s name comes up and the conversation turns to what a sweet, creative, smart, fill-in-the-blank-in-a-positive-way kind of person they are?  If the conversation turns to how good they are at their job, how cute their kid is, how nicely their house is decorated?  If you haven’t seen the person in forever and you ask how they are doing?  I don’t think that qualifies, because it’s not idle, it’s not rumor, and it’s not too much information.

To me, when someone is gossiping about someone the conversation will have one or more of these characteristics: it will be negative, it will nosy, or it will unnecessary/not useful.  And it may be unconfirmed or untruthful (though that’s not a requirement).

So now that I’ve clarified a bit about what I’m talking about when I refer to gossip, I think there are a lot of reasons to avoid it.

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Gossip separates close friends (Proverbs 16:28). 

Julie recently wrote about a story that really illustrates this well.  When you know one of your friends has been talking about you behind your back, it’s inevitably going to form distance in your relationship.  If you value your friends, you won’t talk about their business to other people, especially not in a negative way.  You can’t be close friends with someone that you don’t trust.  Which brings us to the next point . . .

Gossip makes you an untrustworthy person (Proverbs 11:13). 

I’m not going to trust someone with my personal business if I know they’re just going to pass it on to someone else the first chance they get.  Unfortunately I have known a few people like this.  One of them (who is no one who reads this blog, so don’t think it’s you!) is the sweetest person – but I try not to tell her anything that I wouldn’t want my entire extended acquaintance to know.  Which is a pity, because it’s sad to have to censor myself with one of my friends like that, and it prevents us from getting closer.  The others that I know who are this way . . . well, I avoid them all together.

It’s going to cause you to miss out on some friendships. 

People don’t like to be gossiped about.  I know I don’t.  So if I know someone is constantly talking about other people?  Well, I’m not going to seek out a friendship with that person, because the next thing you know, she’ll be constantly talking about me to other people, and who needs the drama?  I don’t think it’s wrong at all to avoid a gossip this way – it’s something Proverbs even tells us to do (20:19).

It’s going to hinder your current friendships. 

Even if you don’t gossip in such a negative way that it hurts your friendships (as I mentioned in my first point), even gossip that seems “harmless” is going to keep you from achieving a level of closeness with your current friendships.  I think sometimes certain people might gossip because they think it will bring them closer to the person they are talking to, provide some sort of connection.  But that’s simply not true.  If I know someone likes to talk about other people, it’s going to make me think anything I say to them could be passed on to others.  And if I think something I say to someone has a good chance of being passed on to someone else, I’m just not going to want to tell that person anything too personal.  Gossip keeps friendships stuck on a superficial level.

Spreading lies about others is just as bad as lying about them yourself.

One of the things that might qualify something as gossip is if it’s just a rumor, or it’s not confirmed as true.  You shouldn’t spread information about your friends even if it is true, for all the reasons mentioned above, but it’s especially damaging to spread words that aren’t true.  You are participating in lying about other people.  That is serious.  And even if you didn’t start the rumor, do you think the person who is being rumored about is going to make the distinction?  I wouldn’t.  Spreading that rumor is going to have the same negative effects on your friendships that I mentioned above, only they’ll be magnified that much more because you not only gossiped, but you gossiped about something that wasn’t even true.  The level of hurt and distrust just doubled.

You catch a lot more bees with honey than with vinegar. 

I changed it to “bees” rather than “flies” because I think it’s a lot more flattering! 

I already talked about how gossip can cause you to miss out on friendships, or hinder your current friendships.  The only exception to this might be with other people who like to gossip, but considering everything I already mentioned, are other gossips really worth being friends with anyway?  I think you are going to attract a lot more worthwhile friendships if you always have a good word for your friends, as opposed to constantly gossiping about them and their business.  Why wouldn’t you want to be friends with someone who looks for every opportunity to encourage her friends or build them up to others (1 Thess. 5:11)?  Why wouldn’t you want to be that kind of friend?  That kind of friend attracts other quality people, and that is the stuff that true friends are made of.

 

There is one last reason why we should avoid gossip.  It doesn’t have as much to do with friendship, but it is huge for those of us who are Christians.  And it’s that gossip is something that displeases God.  Just read Proverbs and you’ll see so many verses on how damaging a gossip can be.  We are told so many times to encourage one another (Heb. 3:13, 2 Cor. 13:11).  We are told to mind our own business (1 Thess. 4:11).   We are told (in Ecc. 5:3) that many words (I think this would include many words about other people) is one of the marks of a fool (ouch!).  There are so many places in the Bible where gossip is condemned and more godly actions are encouraged.  So the biggest reason why we should avoid gossip?  Because we should want to live our lives in a way that pleases God.  And gossip has no part in that.

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If you have any thoughts on gossip, or any other friendship tips, comment below or write a post and link-up!

I’d actually especially like to hear about ways that you avoid listening to gossip, since that’s not something I covered in this post (and I could use the tips for myself).

Last week is the last week of this link-up, so if you have anything you want to say that’s related to friendship, you have until the end of next week to link your posts up below!



Other posts (of mine) in this series:

On Friendships That End

Starting A Friendship

Making Conversation

Maintenance Of Friendship

Life Changes And Friends

Parties - Just Go




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Melissa said...

Great post, Callie. And every point is spot on! I used to really struggle with gossip, especially as a teenager. I think as I've gotten older, i have become someone who is trustworthy, though.

I once was talking w/ a couple of people when another girl's name came up. I mentioned "she has a beautiful voice!" & one of them said i needed to be quiet b/c i was gossipping! Haha! That is not gossip. I truly believe it is when you are saying something NEGATIVE about another person. Or just spreading something too personal. But complimenting them is not gossip. I try to imagine that person listening in - and if i would be horrified for that person to hear what i am saying - then i would consider that gossip for sure!

Anyway, i love this series. Such truthful words!

As far as not participating in gossip, i try to gently tell the person that i didn't have anything bad to say about the person & I didn't want to hear anything negative about them either... even if the person trying to gossip is offended, they will know that you are trustworthy.

Lauren said...

I think this is a great post! Gossip is such an easy trap to fall in and such a difficult one to get out of. I certainly know that I've been guilty of gossiping (and if I'm being really honest, I've probably done so in the past week)...sometimes gossip has such a negative tone but I really like your words about unnecessary topics. I don't necessarily have to be talking bad about someone to be gossiping.

As much as I hate to admit it, thanks for bringing this to light for me...definitely an area that I need to watch more carefully.

Melanie said...

So true!! Seems in a small community where I live..gossip is EVERYWHERE you turn. One of my neighbors is the worst gossip I've ever encountered in my entire life..steering clear of people like this (and praying for them!) is wise..they can just bring you down and get you far away from what God wants in our lives.

Emily Powell said...

The older i get the more and more i just cannot stand gossip! Especially at church. Not that gossiping is ever ok but i guess it just hurts more when i hear christian women socializing in this way.

Natalie said...

I really appreciate this post. Gossiping is hard for women, I think. And I also think sometimes for some people, it can be hard to even recognize as gossiping. I know a lot of people say 'Oh I'm just 'venting'' or something like that. This is a great, truth based post and I really agree with it all. It's so important for us as women to build each other up. As far as how to not listen to gossip, that's something I've always wondered too. I'm good at not participating, but I don't feel comfortable asking someone not to say that, or however you would say it. But maybe I should :) I usually just try to change the subject to something more positive.
I realize I never e-mailed you back from my post on complaining, but you are more than welcome to link to it :) Glad you enjoyed it and thanks for your kind thoughts on it!

roxy said...

To avoid listening to gossip I ask persons to "take a walk in the other person s shoe", I ignore the negative and change the subject, I politely indicate that I would rather speak to people face to face rather than behind thei back, I ask the question_" do you have support/evidence for the allegations?"' When you refuse to tolerate gossip people will refuse to gossip to you!!!! I have tried all of the above and it works every time..

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