The truth about gossip...

Gossip is not just spreading rumors about someone that aren't true, gossip is spreading around something that may be true but isn't constructive to the other person's reputation.  I think people think it's more than ok to talk about someone as long as the conversation is factual.  This couldn't be further from the truth.

Gossip is spreading lies or truths that damage another person's reputation.  It is sharing with the intent of preying on another person's misfortune, making sport of their story for the purpose of mere amusement or interpersonal entertainment.

Here is a list of questions you can use as a "gossip gauge":
1. Does what I'm about to say about that person put them in a good light or a bad light?
2. Do the facts I'm about to share build up or tear down?
3. Is this conversation talking about solutions or problems?
4. Will my remarks encourage grace towards the person or judgement?
5. If this got back to the person would they thank me for sharing it?
6. The question is not whether it is true or false, the question is whether it is good or bad.
7. Can the person I'm sharing with do anything to bring about positive change in the situation?
8. Does sharing this story promote me by making me look good or feel better?
9. Lastly, have I talked to the person before talking about the person?

And speaking of #10, even if you have talked to the person first it doesn't make it right to talk about them if it breaks any rule in #1 through #9.  I've heard people saying when confronted about gossip, "I'm not telling you something I haven't already told them!"  That's not the point.  The point must remain centered on whether what I'm sharing is constructive or destructive to the person's reputation.

There are contexts where sharing concern is appropriate, but only for the purposes of restoration, safety or finding a resolution (solution).  But even then, you go to the person first and if they wouldn't respond to you then you go to the person with someone else who desires biblical restoration.  At that point you either let it go and let God be the judge, jury and executioner, or you take it to spiritual leadership and let them decide on the next steps forward.  The Bible says in a multitude of "counselors" there is wisdom, not the counsel of the multitudes.  Spiritual counsel is different then "pooling collective opinions".

It must be said that sharing concerns and prayer requests with someone who isn't involved in the situation and doesn't need to be can be a "spiritual way" of spreading slander.  "Can you pray for so and so, she is really struggling with..." or "My heart really goes out to "John Doe", I heard yesterday that his wife left him for another man.  I just feel really bad for him."  Sound harmless, doesn't it?  But right under the religious guise of concern is a fleshly scavenger feeding on the road kill.

Gossip isn't just telling a lie about someone, sometimes it's telling the truth about someone in a way that throws them under the bus.


Tom Thelen said…
Great post Jason. I would add that gossip CAN be something positive you share about someone if it robs them of the joy of sharing it for themselves. If you're getting a sense of satisfaction from "being an insider" and sharing the information to fill your own emotional bucket, let that be a big red flag. For example, telling your best friend that another friend recently got engaged might be all fine and good, but check your motives before posting it on facebook, thereby robbing them of the joy of sharing it themselves. The litmus test for positive gossip is "Who owns this information?" and "What are my motives for sharing it?"

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