When it comes to the end of the year, we start thinking about what we can do to better ourselves in the next year. So what are your New Year’s Resolutions? Do you plan to eat healthier? Lose weight? Exercise more? Pray more? Get out into nature more often? What about resolving to gossip less?
A working definition of gossip might be sharing anything about someone that you wouldn’t want to say to the person face to face. This is something that we all face frequently whether we realize it or not. Gossip can be so normal or natural for us as humans that we tend to forget how harmful it can be.
Sometimes it is just plain meanness. If we really suspect someone is involved in sinful activity, the right thing to do is to gently confront that person, not talk to others about them. Satan has often used gossip in the church to break down the love and unity of its people. Proverbs 16:28 states this clearly, “A dishonest man spreads strife, and a whisperer separates close friends.” Sometimes we like to entertain ourselves with juicy details at the expense of others. At other times we might be motivated by envy or pride. If we tell how others are blowing it, or if we can point out a flaw when someone is being praised, we might make ourselves look better in comparison.
Whatever reason we may have for gossiping doesn’t matter. If it isn’t something God would do, it isn’t something we should take part in. Jesus says in Mark 12:31, to “love your neighbor as you love yourself.” That being said, gossip does not show love to your neighbor, nor to yourself.
When hearing the word gossip, many of us think, “No that’s not me. I don’t share about others just for the fun of it.” But the sin of gossip isn’t just speaking it, it’s also listening to what’s being said. The Bible speaks to this in Proverbs 26:20, “For lack of wood the fire goes out, and where there is no whisperer, quarreling ceases.” Those gossiping need people who are willing to listen. If you refuse to take part in gossip, you show Christ’s love to everyone, including the gossiper.
So how do we actually battle against the sin of gossip? How do we lovingly confront it in others? First, before saying anything about someone else, ask yourself, “Would I say this to the person’s face?” If not, don’t say it about the person. If your desire to share actually is fueled by concern for the person, lovingly confront them with your concern. Speaking of lovingly confronting, when you hear others gossiping, kindly ask if they have spoken to the person they are speaking about. Finally, care about the reputation of Christ’s body and each part of it, so that the body may bear witness to who Christ is.
Ephesians 4:29, in The Message, says to “Say only what helps, each word a gift.” So this year resolve to speak gifts, not gossip.