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. Continue reading
Earlier this week I posted some of Wolfgang Musculus’ thoughts on slander from his commentary on Psalm 15. I wanted to elaborate a bit gossip and slander.
A slanderer or gossip has three key characteristics. First, they want to influence the way people think about other people. They want people to think badly of Jill because she got angry with her two year old at church. They want so and so to think less of the pastor because he spent money on a conference. Their goal is not change or communication, but rather destruction of people they do not like. Continue reading
We live in an age of unparalleled riches when it comes to theology and the study of God’s Word. Of course, there are new, excellent books being written each year. But the greatest riches are found in the translation of older texts into English so they can be read by normal men like me. One fascinating series is Sources in Early Modern Economics, Ethics, and Law. I know, your blood gets pumping just thinking about it. The series is a translation of some lesser known works, at least to us 21st century men, by some leading thinkers in the late Middle Ages up through the 17th century. I am currently working my way through On Righteousness, Oaths, and Usury, which is Wolfgang (that’s right his first name is Wolfgang) Musculus’ commentary on Psalm 15, as well as two appendices, one on oaths and the other on usury. His section on Psalm 15:3, “[He] who does not slander with his tongue and does no evil to his neighbor, nor takes up a reproach against his friend” was particularly helpful as he discussed what slander is. Here are some quotes from Musculus’ section on slander. All bold and brackets are mine.
To slander one’s neighbor is not simply to report what the neighbor either says or does (because sometimes not only is this permissible to do, but also it ought to be either for their sake or for the public good), but it is to report something maliciously, in the spirit of harming one’s neighbor.
The point is that the “why” matters. Two men can say the same thing about their friend and one be slandering and the other not. The problem is that we all assume our motives are pure and just. That we are only saying it for their good or because people need to know. But if we dig deeper into our hearts and desires we will often find that we wish to harm others with our words about them.
The next section is titled “What Sort of Vice Slander Is.” Musculus lists four descriptions of the vice of slander. Here is the first. He uses “denouncer” as a synonym for slanderer. Continue reading