The Power Of Gossip

girl being teased

Gossip embroils at least three people in a harmful activity; the speaker, the listener, and the person who is the topic of conversation. Gossip sneaks into conversations under the guise of innocent information, truthful facts, or even as a misguided matter of prayer. Gossip is not an innocent pastime. It is a sin.

Gossip, as opposed to innocent conversation, typically involves rumors, opinions, or “inside” information. The matter of gossip may even be truthful facts. However, the subject of the facts must be examined. Is it personal or private? Would the subject of the gossip consider the information intimate? Oftentimes, the very allure of gossip is its sensational subject matter that exploits another person’s personal issues.

Listeners can recognize the warning signs that a conversation is about to go downhill. Usually, gossip is shared in lowered tones among a few people. In fact, Proverbs refers to gossip as a “whisperer.” Often, gossips feel inclined to add a caveat to their conversation with a demand for secrecy. Listening to the information will encourage the gossip to keep talking- to the next person and the next and the next.

There are several common reasons why people succumb to the urge either to gossip or listen to gossip. Gossips often feel important that they have the inside story; it is their way of getting much desired attention. Listeners may listen to the scoop for the same reason. They feel flattered to be included as part of the “in-the-know” group. Some people enjoy contention, and gossip becomes a means of fanning the flame. Some try to make up their own sense of inadequacy by cutting down others. Discrediting another person offers a quick, although not permanent, fix for envious feelings. Boredom can also tempt the gossip into destructive conversation.

When people discover themselves to be the object of gossip, they probably will want to set the record straight. The first inclination is revenge. Instead, if the hurt is minor, they should ignore what they can. However, if personal integrity, credibility, job, or Christian witness may be in jeopardy, they must take action by going to the source of the gossip and setting the record straight with the appropriate truthful information. It should be clear to the gossips that they should discontinue saying anything more about the situation in light of the true facts.
Many gossips will deny that they said what was heard, but most of them will stop once they know they have been identified as the source.

A gossip must enlist the help of others in order to break the habit. Letting family and close friends know that one sincerely wants to stop gossiping helps stop gossip before it starts. Their gentle reminders (either verbally or with a subtle cue) will help curb the conversation when it gets dangerously close to gossip. Over time, they can learn to change the subject and go on to something else.

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