What’s Your Response When Gossip is Served?

Written by: Anne Peterson
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We’ve all been there. You’re with a friend and having a good time and in a hushed tone you’re asked, “Did you hear . . .?”

You tense up. You know what’s coming, but you still lean forward, and you’re served that tasty morsel. You feel the texture, you feel it slide down your throat. Sweet at first, though you know it won’t sit well later.

So what do you do? Do you eat and pay for it later? Do you put your hand up and say you’re not hungry?

We’re all guilty of it eating and serving gossip. We dress it up sometimes, making it look presentable. Sometimes we even say it’s a prayer request. After all, everyone needs prayer, don’t they?

There are reasons why we take part in these tasty morsels, but maybe being aware of them can help us to push away from the table.

Here are my observations about why we gossip:

  • We need to fit in. There is a sense of power in having a piece of information someone else doesn’t know yet. It makes us feel important.
  • We feel insecure. Sometimes the reason we share negative things about someone is so we don’t look quite as pitiful. But stepping on others is unkind, and you really don’t appear better at all. In fact, quite the opposite.
  • We have resentment. There are times when the topic of our conversation is someone we struggle with. Maybe we’ve felt hurt. Or kept score. Gossiping about him/her gives us a chance to get back a little. OK, maybe a lot.

I remember a time a friend of mine started telling me something that was not for my ears. Did I stop her? No. For two of the reasons I stated above. I wanted to get closer to her. Wouldn’t stopping her risk that? Besides, I didn’t know the guy she was talking about that well. What harm could it do? My eyes widened and I looked anxious to hear each and every word. I even asked questions, thinking I’d get points for that. My stomach hurts just thinking about it.

The gossip did harm. Every time after that when I saw this individual all I saw was the picture of him she painted. He really didn’t have a chance after that.

No matter why we participate, gossip is harmful to us and to others.

  • Gossip is unfair. The person who is talked about has no idea he/she is the topic of your conversation. What you hear is one-sided. Jaded as well. I’m sure you remember the little game, “Telephone.” When we repeat what has been told to us, each repetition seems to change the story a little, rarely in favor of the subject.
  • Gossip doesn’t glorify God. Even under the pretense of being a prayer request, God is not honored when we are talking about someone in a negative way. Read Romans 12:3. When we are taking part in gossip we are not showing grace, but judgment.
  • Gossip isn’t loving. Read 1 Corinthians 13:6-7. Love rejoices in the truth, but if we are taking part in something that is putting another one down, it is not truth.

We are one body, in Christ.  Sometimes we act as if we are separate entities. Not a body at all. If we saw someone who was hitting himself in the head, or punching himself in the stomach, we would know that something was wrong. And yet, we’re one body and we harm each other.

Note: If the person being talked about is not someone who knows God, that still doesn’t let us off the hook. We’re told to love those who don’t know him. Putting others down is not loving.

So what do we do then?

If you are the one listening to gossip you might be wondering what you can do to stop it.
Just letting it slide is not loving. Loving someone means you tell the truth with grace. Drench it in grace.

You can say something like, “I’m not comfortable talking about someone when they are not here.”

Or, “You know when I hear something negative about someone, later on I can’t forget it when I see them.”

If we continue to be silent when we’re with someone who gossips, it will appear we are behind it. We may as well be the person who started it then.

If you can’t say anything, at least excuse yourself. Distance is a boundary we can all use. We can choose the kind of talk we’re going to take part in.

Loving someone is wanting the best for them. Just agree with God and what he says in his Word. It’s the Holy Spirit’s job to convict. No matter how many times I’ve offered him help, he never needs it.

Maybe if we listened to the Spirit’s voice more than we listen to each other, we’d look different than the world who doesn’t know him.

Our flesh wants instant gratification. Our flesh wants those tasty morsels. But God’s Word says in Galatians 5:16-18: “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.”

If we are the ones who are gossiping we need to take that to God. Tell him you want to stop. Tell him you want your speech to be glorifying. He’ll help you.

He can even give you the words to say.

Proverbs 11:12-13 says: “Whoever belittles his neighbor lacks sense, but a man of understanding remains silent. Whoever goes about slandering reveals secrets, but he who is trustworthy in spirit keeps a thing covered.”

Which one are you? How will you respond next time gossip is served?

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