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Gossip in church

Few things are as enticing as finding out secrets. It is the main task of the media, finding out things and telling others.
"For the good of the people."
"We have a right to know."
"So you can pray for him."

Proverbs 18:8

The words of a gossip are like choice morsels; they go down to a man's inmost parts.

I have been the subject of a nasty little gossip ring. Four people I thought were my friends were trading rumours about me. When I confronted one of them, she said it was because they were "concerned" about me. They were so concerned that they couldnít pick up the phone or write a letter, drop round to see me or send an email. They were more concerned with spreading what they thought were my guilty secrets. Never mind that their "news" was bad guesses showing the situation in the worst possible light, or that their guesses were completely wrong. Never mind that none of these people had even seen me in several weeks. They were "concerned."

James 3:7-8

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.

More insidious than an outright lie is the lie or guess wrapped around a truth. The truth is used to validate the gossipís interpretation of the facts as the whole truth. Gossip can contain truth ("She hasnít been in church for a month") wrapped in guesses ("because sheís given up on God"), but that doesnít make it true.

When gossip spreads, the victim is hurt, betrayed and ridiculed. Few gossips have the courage or decency to tell their victim what is going on. Most of us find out by accident. Gossips do not care about who theyíre hurting. If they did care, they would try to help or point out our errors and mistakes to us personally, not just talk to other people about their "concerns" for us.

Christians can be as bad as non Christians. The Christian gossip may claim they are spreading their news so people can "pray for" the victim, so that "we know what kind of person" he or she is, because they are "so concerned about him/her."

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 hurts. Trust is destroyed, feelings trampled. So what do you do when someone tries to pass you the latest "news?" A simple question can expose a gossip:

"Does s/he know youíre saying this?"

Nine times out of ten, the victim has no idea. The gossip will bluster and swear that they were personally recruited by him/her to spread the "news" to all and sundry. The only honest thing to do next is go to the victim and let them know whatís going on. They will be understandably hurt and upset. But if you say nothing, the gossip will continue.

Proverbs 11:13

A gossip betrays a confidence, but a trustworthy man keeps a secret.

If you are the victim, you need to confront the gossips. Writing a letter is a good method because you get to rewrite it as many times as you need. Tell them you know they are gossiping, and you are hurt by their actions. You may be able to shame them into stopping. They may just carry on. If they do, follow the directions of Matthew 18: 15-20. Confront individually, then in company, then with an authority figure. But donít stoop to their level. And forgive them.

When I say forgive, I donít mean forget. We cannot wipe memories from our minds. They hurt you, and proved how trustworthy they really are. So forgive them, and then be careful who you trust and who you talk to.

James 3:1

If anyone is never at fault in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to keep his whole body in check.

No-one on this earth is perfect. But there is no excuse for gossip.

Copyright © 2000 Alison Hawke