A few months ago one of my mentors challenged me to a 40 day word fast. This meant abstaining from 6 specific styles of verbal communication, one of which included Gossip. I didn’t need him or this challenge to tell me that gossiping was wrong; because I’m sure we all know it is.
The Bible clearly tells us that: Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen’ (Ephesians 4:29). And let’s face it gossip isn’t wholesome talk, and it certainly doesn’t build people up.
What Is Gossip?
There are various names, labels, descriptions and titles we give gossip. For example gist, discussions, important news, back biting, venting, jokes, sarcasm, shade. Sometimes, we deceive ourselves (and quite convincingly, might I add) that we are discussing certain things so we can ‘pray’ about them, or help in finding a solution. The truth is we all know we’re just having a good ol’ gossip. I’d also like to include positive things that you have been told not to share could also be classified as gossip.
Effects Of Gossip
I see gossip as a [self] destructive time bomb, because the effects may not necessarily be immediate, but somewhere along the line it will explode and someone will get hurt.
- Gossip can destroy friendships, family, and relationships – ‘A troublemaker plants seeds of strife; gossip separates the best of friends’ (Proverbs 16:28).
- Gossip hurts, especially those whom are the subject of the discussion – ‘The words of a talebearer [a gossiper] are as wounds, and they go down into the innermost parts of the belly’ (Proverbs 18:8).
- Gossip can turn back and destroy you, the gossiper- ‘Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows’ (Galatians 6:7). So you sow a little chit-chatter here about someone else that is none of your business, you may very well reap a whole dissertation about you. Talking about others gives them full permission to talk about you – you get what you give!
- Gossip separates us from God, because it is a sin – ‘O LORD, who may abide in Your tent? Who may dwell on Your holy hill? He who walks with integrity, and works righteousness, And speaks truth in his heart. He does not slander with his tongue, nor does evil to his neighbour, nor takes up a reproach against his friend’ (Psalm 15:1-3).
Don’t get me wrong gossiping can seem fun, especially when it’s called something else like gist or shade. Like all other sins it’s attractive, quite easy to engage in and difficult to stop. But stopping is a must!
How To Stop Gossiping
1. As with anything, you need to identify it, acknowledge it’s a sin and a problem in your life.
2. Ask God for forgiveness for all the whispers, course jokes, backbiting, slandering and gossip you’ve engaged in.
3. Pray to God for His grace to help you stop.
Some things have to go.
I had to forcefully break certain habits. This meant certain shows, websites and Instagram accounts had to go.
Some people also had to go. I cut certain people out of my life. I realised that some friendships I had were not producing any Godly fruits and most conversations were sinful and full of negativity. Many times during conversations I would feel really uncomfortable because I knew what I was doing or talking about was wrong. But two things kept me going- the story was sweet and juicy, and the fear of losing the friendship as I knew we had nothing much in common, sad I know.
If the friendship is ungodly and not yielding any beneficial fruits- you just have got to let it go. ‘If your eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into the fire of hell’ (Matthew 18:9). I know this is quite dramatic and harsh, but we need to constantly rid our lives of things that cause us to sin.
Ask God for wisdom regarding how you exit certain relationships, but be prepared to let some go. ‘He who goes about as a slanderer reveals secrets, therefore do not associate with a gossip’ (Proverbs 20:19). You cannot surround yourself with people that are negative and expect not to be negative too. ‘Do not be misled: bad company corrupts good character’ (1 Corinthians 15:33).
Other Things I Did…
I had an honest conversation with my closest friends and family and told them straight that I didn’t want to gossip anymore. This helped in making us accountable to each other; when a conversation starts steering in the wrong direction, we remind ourselves of our agreement to stop gossiping.
In certain social situations I try to keep quiet, this includes minimising giggles and snickering that encourages people to continue particular conversations.
Abstaining from gossip is hard, but if you want to stop, you will need to take responsibility.
We all have a choice regarding the behaviours we engage in, and what we do usually reflects some of our values, attitudes and beliefs. I have found there are usually underlying issues relating to gossip, such as: jealousy, envy, insecurity, covetousness, bitterness, hatred, anger, boredom, lack of direction and purpose, low self esteem, loneliness and many more. What you decide to talk or gossip about reveals the state of your heart: ‘For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks’ (Matthew 12:34). So check your heart.
As mentioned, the responsibility to stop gossiping lies with you accompanied with the help of the Holy Spirit. The more you talk recklessly and engage in gossip, the more people will bring news to you, and the more you will spread it. It’s a common sense cyclical interaction. You want to know how to quench the fire of gossip? Say nada. Yep! Just don’t say anything! Drop the mic and walk away from the conversation.
‘Without wood a fire goes out; without a gossip a quarrel dies down’
Next time you catch yourself about to gossip, implement this 3 second rule of silence and quickly ask yourself if you should say what you are about to, is it beneficial, useful, hurtful, necessary, is it gossip?
If it is negative ask yourself: Is this how I would want to be treated? Would I want my secrets exposed? My embarrassing moments, shameful issues put on blast and made public?
We must learn to girdle our tongues, ‘we must be quick to hear, slow to speak’ (James 1:19).
My prayer is that:
The Words Of Our Mouths And The Meditation Of Our Hearts Will Be Acceptable Unto Our God
In truth and with love