HOW TO AVOID GOSSIP
Written by Jessica Ponder on January 15, 2013
We’ve all been hurt by other’s words, speculations, and talk. We’ve all said things that were not grace-filled and we wish we could take back. We’ve all spoken too quickly and faced the consequences of hasty words or unjustified attitudes.
I want to be more gracious in the way that I think and talk about others. Through praying, reading the Scriptures, and talking with others, I’ve come up with a short list of practical questions that the Holy Spirit uses to help me avoid gossip.
Five Helpful Questions
I try to ask myself these questions before I share anything with someone else:
1) Am I sharing this because I want the person that I am sharing it with to help with the situation?
For example, suppose someone you know has had a miscarriage. Instead of gossiping about them to your friend, you might say to your friend, “I’ve never had an experience of miscarriage, but I know you have and I wanted to see if you might encourage her.”
2) Am I sharing this because I want the person that I’m sharing it with to help me decide what to do?
For example, suppose you had a conflict with a coworker and said some things that you shouldn’t have. You are really embarrassed and grieved over your sin, but you are unsure of how to approach the situation. So you might share the news with a close friend for their advice on how you might make things right.
3) Am I sharing this because I know someone should act in the situation and I’m trying to figure out who should do so?
For example, suppose a friend shared with you that she was in an abusive relationship. You feel that the situation is bigger than you or her can deal with alone, but you know someone has to do something. So you might ask her if you can share her story with someone else to see what steps you should take to get her help.
4) Are there details that can be left out of what I share so that I don’t demean or undermine another person?
For example, suppose you have been having a relational conflict with a close friend. You want to ask others to pray for you, but you don’t want to gossip. So you leave out the “juicy details” (who, when, where, and why) and just ask for prayer so that you can quickly forgive and do your part to restore the relationship.
5) Am I sharing this piece of information because I am genuinely convicted or grieved about my own sin, or am I trying to point out someone else’s mistakes?
For example, suppose you and a friend have both sinned against each other in very serious ways. You have talked about your sins, but you are still unsure of how to change your ongoing anger toward them. Instead of using prayer as an opportunity to point out their faults, ask for prayer for yourself. Pray that God would help you overcome your sinful inability to love and serve your friend as Jesus does.
Search Your Heart
Chances are, if you’re more concerned with the other person’s actions but do not feel that there is something that needs to be acted on (by you or someone who can actually help), then you should not share the news. If you are thinking about sharing news with someone who can’t or won’t act to help the situation, then you shouldn’t share the news. If you go into explicit detail when few details would suffice, you’re trying to maximize the fault of someone else or highlight the other person’s sin (probably instead of your own). The Bible calls this slander, and it says that this is very divisive.
Here are some Scripture verses that have been particularly convicting and challenging for me in this regard:
“Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” – Ephesians 4:29-32.
“If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming. In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.” –Colossians 3:1-10
Jessica Ponder is a wife and mother to one (so far). She loves reading, singing, baking, and urban walking. In her dreams she is a piano player with time to practice, a gardener whose plants don’t die, and someone who could hang out with the entire world at the same time, all the time.