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What is Gossip?

The Question:

What is considered gossip and what is considered just updating people (maybe there is no such thing)?  There is a fine line when it comes to gossip. I confront it every day at work for my manager is a very big gossip. It is very easy to get caught without even knowing it.

The Answer:

Avoiding Idle Talk

SHUN the gossip of men as much as possible, for discussion of worldly affairs, even though sincere, is a great distraction inasmuch as we are quickly ensnared and captivated by vanity. Many a time I wish that I had held my peace and had not associated with men. Why, indeed, do we converse and gossip among ourselves when we so seldom part without a troubled conscience? We do so because we seek comfort from one another's conversation and wish to ease the mind wearied by diverse thoughts. Hence, we talk and think quite fondly of things we like very much or of things we dislike intensely. But, sad to say, we often talk vainly and to no purpose; for this external pleasure effectively bars inward and divine consolation. Therefore we must watch and pray lest time pass idly. When the right and opportune moment comes for speaking, say something that will edify. Bad habits and indifference to spiritual progress do much to remove the guard from the tongue. Devout conversation on spiritual matters, on the contrary, is a great aid to spiritual progress, especially when persons of the same mind and spirit associate together in God. Thomas A Kempis, The Imitation of Christ, Book One, Chapter Ten.

What is gossiping? What does the Bible say about it?

Proverbs 11:13 A gossip betrays a confidence, but a trustworthy man keeps a secret.
Proverbs 20:19 A gossip betrays a confidence; so avoid a man who talks too much.

One characteristic of a person who gossips is that they betray confidences. You cannot trust a gossip with secrets. One of their traits is loquacity – talking too much.

Proverbs 16:28 A perverse man stirs up dissension, and a gossip separates close friends.

Gossips are often the source of dissention because they are perverse people who love to "keep something going". They can come between the closest of friends and destroy that relationship.

Proverbs 18:8 (also 26:22) The words of a gossip are like choice morsels; they go down to a man's inmost parts.

There is something about "being in the know" that tempts us both to gossip and to listen to gossip. Hearing "the latest" news is like eating our favorite sweets. Especially when we gossip to criticize someone we are secretly jealous of – it seems to bring us some sort of perverse satisfaction.

Proverbs 26:20 Without wood a fire goes out; without gossip a quarrel dies down.

If you don’t keep "feeding a fire" with wood, it will soon go out. Likewise quarrels between friends would die down and be resolved if a gossip would let it die. But many gossips are famous for "carrying tales" back and forth between offended parties and keeping a quarrel burning and alive.

2 Corinthians 12:20 For I am afraid that when I come I may not find you as I want you to be, and you may not find me as you want me to be. I fear that there may be quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, factions, slander, gossip, arrogance and disorder.

But gossiping isn’t so bad, is it? I mean it is a fairly harmless activity, right? Not according to the Apostle Paul. He ranks it right up there with quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, factions, slander, arrogance and disorder.

James 3:6-8 The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell. All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and creatures of the sea are being tamed and have been tamed by man, but no man can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.

Gossip has rightly been called "murder by tongue". James said that the tongue is a "world of evil" and "set on fire by hell". Gossip is "full of deadly poison".

James 1:26 If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless.

Gossip is perhaps the most accepted and widely practiced sin in the Church today. However, James declares that such a person’s "religion" is worthless and he or she is self-deceived. Murder by tongue is not an acceptable trait for a believer!

Romans 1:28-32 Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done. They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Although they know God's righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.

Gossips in the Greek is psithuristes {psith-oo-ris-tace'} meaning a whisperer, secret slanderer, detractor. This is from the same root word as psithurismos {psith-oo-ris-mos'} (see 2 Corinthians 12:20) from a derivative of psithos (a whisper; by implication, a slander) meaning a whispering, i.e. secret slandering and also used of the magical murmuring of a charmer of snakes, alluding to the almost hypnotic hold gossiping seems to have.

Furthermore, Paul says that gossip is the product of a "depraved mind". He classes it as "wickedness", along with murder and idolatry. And that those who gossip also approve of others doing the same thing.

So how do you differentiate between gossiping and "keeping updated"? One key is to NOT get involved in "third party" situations... that is where you are neither part of the problem nor part of the solution. Ask yourself, "WHY do I need to "update" someone about another person?"

Another question to ask yourself ... what is my reaction to this information? Am I glad that someone else is messing up or failing? Am I gathering information to be used against someone later? Or am I genuinely concerned and make it a matter of prayer?

And when you "share" information ... ask yourself ... Is this something told to me in confidence that I should NOT be sharing? What might the person I'm sharing with do with it? Is there any pressing reason why I should pass it along? Usually the answer will be no...

My grandma also gave me some good advice. She said, "If you can't say anything good about somebody, don't say anything!" I try to live by this ... And the old adage, "Be sure your words are sweet because you may have to eat them!" Remember that James said that the tongue is set on fire of HELL ... so another test would be ... am I speaking words from heaven ... blessing and goodness... or am I allowing my tongue to be set on fire by HELL?

Well by the time you ask yourself all these questions ... probably the opportunity to gossip has passed you by anyway! LOL This is where the old expression "bite your tongue" would come in handy. Maybe it would be a good way to remind yourself to be silent. After all, usually these aren't "life or death" situations ... and you probably are better off saying nothing, than risk gossiping, which is a sin.

What is the difference between rumor and gossip? There is none! They are one and the same!

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