I think this is the is the final post on gossip, but I can’t promise. First, I discussed Wolfgang Musculus’ exposition of Psalm 15:3. Then I posted on the tactics and aims of a gossip. In this post I want to give direction on how to keep yourself from being a gossip and how to deal with gossips. But first, here is a review.
A gossip is someone who wants to influence people’s opinions of other people, but does so through manipulation and insinuation, not clear communication. A gossip is intent on hurting someone by turning people against them in some way. A gossip can speak the truth about someone, but the goal is not the good of the person or those around them, but rather the goal is to harm the one being spoken of. Now of course, a gossip would never say this. That is why wisdom is necessary.
Dealing with Our Own Gossip
Defeating gossip begins with our own hearts. There is a tendency to want to control other people, dig for dirt, hurt others, and turn people to your side against other people. Before asking how we can handle gossips we must first ask, “Am I a gossip?” Do we find ourselves talking about others for no good reason? Do we find ourselves shading the truth to make ourselves look better or others look bad? And perhaps most importantly is there bitterness and pride in our hearts? Bitterness and pride are the seeds from which gossip grows. We think ourselves better than other people. We know better than other people. Or we become bitter at someone. They did not do what we thought they should. Maybe they said something that irritated us. Maybe their personality just grates us. Bitterness, that hidden malice that seeks to harm others, and pride, that hidden inflated opinion of one’s self, is the root of gossip. Before we can honestly and kindly deal with a gossip we must rid our own hearts of gossip. Speak the truth with humility and kindness towards those around you.
Stopping the Gossip of Others
So how do you approach people who are gossips? Here are some suggestions.
First, Make them say what they mean or retract the insinuation. Do not allow them to hint at things. A gossip lives in the gray area of not saying what they really mean. They hint, imply, wink, but are not clear. Why? They do not want to be held accountable. Make them be clear. Do you really think that Mr. Johnson is addicted to porn? Do you really think Jill is a bad mother for letting her kid stay up late? This will be uncomfortable, but is absolutely necessary.
Second, do not allow information to influence you if you cannot check with the source. If someone says to me, “I heard that Dale is into porn.” I would first ask who they heard this from. If the person refused to reveal the source then I would consider the information unusable and put it out of my mind. By forcing a gossip to reveal their source it allows you to go back and get the truth. Gossips have a way of taking what someone says and giving it a meaning that was never intended. Don’t act on information you cannot verify. Don’t allow information you cannot verify to impact your opinion of someone.
Third, do not allow them to bring up a serious issue and yet refuse to act on it. “Dale’s wife said he was into porn.” Or “I heard John’s employer was thinking about firing him.” Gossips like to say to hint at or accuse people of serious sins but they don’t want you to act. If you are Dale’s friend then if he is looking at porn you should either talk to him or let your pastor know so he can talk to them. The option is usually not to sit there and do nothing. But that is exactly is what the gossip wants because they do not want to help Dale or John. They want to hurt the reputation of Dale and John. Don’t allow this. If a serious matter is brought to your attention do something about it or tell someone who can.
Fourth, be alert for flattery. It is easy to be blind to gossips because they go around saying a lot of nice things about all sorts of people. A person who is constantly complimenting you or others could be a nice person or they could be a die hard gossip. We don’t talk enough about flattery. But Proverbs warns repeatedly against it. Compliments from gossips have strings attached.
Finally, mind your own business. Don’t sit around talking about other people if there is not a legitimate reason to do. And there rarely is a legitimate reason to do so. Gossips like to talk about others. They bring up Mrs. So and So for no apparent reason. Gossips are busy bodies. They want to know the details of other people’s lives. This is almost always a sinful tendency. Mind your own business. Whether or not Jill kept her kid up late is none of your business. What movie that couple went to see on Friday night is none of your business. In fact, most things other people do is none of your business. Don’t dig into the lives of others.
If you have other suggestions for dealing with gossip feel free to put them in the comments.