I’ve been told a time or two that I am secretive. I had a roommate once that told me I was ridiculously hard to get to know, and I simply smiled and said, “yea, you’re right.”
I would now say that’s not true, but rather that I’m difficult to be known by those that I don’t fully trust.
I hate gossip. And even more than I hate gossip itself, I loathe being the subject of gossip.
I mean, no one likes that, right? Yet, everyone is doing it. And even though I hate it so fiercely, I am not immune to it myself. It’s like the common cold; it’s everywhere.
You might be reading this and thinking, “I don’t do that, I would never. I have a handle on the gossip situation in my life.” If that’s you, and if you really do have a handle on it, let’s be friends.
But seriously, y’all- common cold. It’s everywhere you turn. What makes gossip such a challenging struggle to overcome is that we all have ways in which we justify gossip. We say it’s not gossip if it involves us. WRONG. A situation can totally involve you and still be gossip. We say it’s not gossip if we are sharing with our spouse. WRONG. I have totally gossiped to my husband. We say it’s not gossip if we are just sharing a “prayer request.” WRONG. Sharing confidential information and following it with “we need to pray for him” does not make it okay.
The ways in which we can justify gossip are endless.
In fact, I think we as a culture have justified it so much that we don’t even know what is gossip and what isn’t anymore. I spent some time researching the matter from both a biblical and psychological standpoint and came up with a few points that might help eliminate some confusion.
- Something can be true or fact and still be gossip.
- Sharing something out of “concern” for another person does not mean it is not gossip.
- Sharing with family does not justify sharing information that has been shared in confidence.
- Being a part of the plot or problem does not always mean it is okay to talk about it.
- Listening to gossip (even if we aren’t contributing) is just as bad as speaking the words.
The problem with each of these things is that no matter what our intent, or how we justify it, our words and listening action can damage the reputation of another who is not present to speak for himself, or rob another of the opportunity to share something that may be true but is very personal.
One of the most common ways we gossip looks something like this: Someone does something that we aren’t okay with, perhaps even something that hurts us, and we don’t have the courage to speak to them directly. Instead, we go to another person and share our story. We don’t share the full story; we share our story. We do it in the name of “getting advice” or sharing a “concern” that we have. We might even be so spiritual as to follow it up with asking for prayer for that person. Often times, we are simply looking for someone to build us up and have sympathy for us. Still, the person that offended us has not been spoken to. We just petition those around us to agree with us. Now, instead of us simply having an issue with another person, we have persuaded our best friend, our brother, our Uncle Jim, and our cousin Sally to also have an issue with that person. Still, we haven’t solved the problem with the person. We’ve simply made more problems. And the person- we will call him Kevin- doesn’t even know he has all these problems to deal with. We feel great though, because everybody and their brother has heard our venting and made us feel better about ourselves and reassured us that it’s certainly not our issue, but Kevin’s.
Guys. It’s ridiculous.
Let’s be super clear. That’s not “getting advice” or “sharing concern.” It’s gossip.
We’ve damaged Kevin’s reputation among an entire group of people, and now poor Kevin has ten or more messes to clean up that he otherwise wouldn’t have. And the worst part is that probably a good half of what we’ve shared about Kevin is probably either flat out wrong, or just our interpretation of what was really going on.
Here’s the deal, y’all. Gossip is manipulation. There’s no way around it. When we gossip, we are manipulating our listeners. We convince others to agree with our perspective and rally around our frustrations, but we haven’t addressed the problem.
It’s just plain wrong.
The underlying issue is that we don’t have the courage to face the problem itself. Instead we just go around talking about the problem. Essentially, we are walking in a load of fear.
Fear of confrontation. Fear of truth. Fear of authenticity. Fear of dealing with our own problems.
If we confront Kevin it’s all too possible that he might confront us in return. So instead of potentially confronting our issues, we share our version of the story so that ten other people can tell us that we don’t have any issues.
I call bullshit on that one.
We all have issues. Perhaps it’s time that we start confronting those issues instead of going around talking about Kevin and all of his. Then, once we have the courage to face our issues, we can approach Kevin confidently, knowing that we might have to deal with more issues. Maybe Kevin will just say he’s sorry for whatever it is, but maybe not. Either way, we should keep what’s between us and Kevin right there- between us and Kevin. Just because we have an issue with someone doesn’t mean everyone else has to as well.
So what about those times when we actually do need help figuring out how to deal with a problem?
We need to ask ourselves these questions:
- Is the person I am sharing with mature enough to separate the problem from the person?
- Will sharing with this person cause them to have a frustration or problem that they otherwise would not have? Am I damaging another person’s reputation?
- Am I sharing for the purpose of getting help to then address the problem, or am I simply looking for someone to agree with me and build me up?
- Am I willing to be called out and hear that I am wrong?
- Am I sharing the full story? Or am I simply sharing the version of the story that makes me look like the victim?
It’s okay to need help dealing with a problem, but the help should always redirect us to the problem itself, and it should never create a greater problem.
It doesn’t matter if someone is your mother, brother, husband, wife, daughter, best friend, or favorite cousin. If you’re creating a problem or damaging someone’s reputation, it is not okay.
Maybe you’re thinking, “that’s great, but what about when someone is gossiping to me.”
Tough one, I know. It requires almost more courage and boldness than confronting our own issues with someone. It’s challenging, but definitely manageable.
If someone shares something with you about our good friend Kevin, you can ask these questions:
- Have you talked to Kevin about this?
- Does Kevin know you are sharing this with me?
- Do you think Kevin would have the same story if he were here with us?
- Do you feel like you have done anything wrong yourself?
Or, if it’s just plain wrong and the person talking to us is clearly just sharing negative things and not looking for advice to deal with the problem we can simply say “I’m not comfortable talking about this.”
I won’t pretend this is easy, but y’all, we have got to get a handle on this.
Let’s stop talking to everyone we know about our problems and just start talking to our problems.