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This paper is an editorial opinion. The Bible doesn’t deal much with gossip except to show Yehovah’s hatred of those who practice this, and how sinful and destructive it truly is. This document is therefore for readers to just consider; I don’t pretend that it falls into the category of Biblical Truth. The document also hasn’t been edited; I expect that you will find errors in it. (If you let me know, I can correct the errors.)
Leviticus 19:16 Thou shalt not go up and down as a talebearer among thy people: neither shalt thou stand against the blood of thy neighbour: I am the LORD.
Proverbs 11:13 A talebearer revealeth secrets: but he that is of a faithful spirit concealeth the matter.
Proverbs 18:8 The words of a talebearer are as wounds, and they go down into the innermost parts of the belly.
Proverbs 20:19 He that goeth about as a talebearer revealeth secrets: therefore meddle not with him that flattereth with his lips.
Proverbs 26:20 Where no wood is, there the fire goeth out: so where there is no talebearer, the strife ceaseth.
Proverbs 26:22 The words of a talebearer are as wounds, and they go down into the innermost parts of the belly.
Gossip: Any form of communication in which:
- true or false negative, private information is communicated for entertainment
- true or false negative, private information is communicated that results in self-aggrandizement (making self look more important)
- true, partial or false negative, private information is communicated that lowers the estimation of another person or destroys a person’s reputation
- true, partial or false negative, private information is communicated that spreads hurt feelings, one’s own bitternesses, and/or rancor to others
- none-of-your-business questions are asked as if the one asking has the right and even responsibility to ask those questions
- true, partially true, or false information is communicated or asked that adversely affects relationships, raises suspicions, brings hurt feelings, and/or harms trust
Those who gossip normally painlessly sow discord, while keeping (or seeming to keep) ‘squeaky clean,’ offering no real personal investment in and responsibility for solutions to the problems that have been raised. They sometimes think of themselves as doing a service by informing others. Their words leave damage without benefit and are usually harmful, sometimes even causing death. They are often very successful in killing relationships that have been long-standing and very strong.
The following will examine made-up cases to consider whether each is a case of gossip using a proposed checklist.
“Is a person gossiping if information is passed that another is doing monetarily poorly, and that others have helped?”
Suppose a person, like Paul in Corinthians, is communicating with the Corinthian Saints that the Saints in Jerusalem are monetarily suffering, and they need help. Other congregations have helped, and Paul desires that the folks in Corinth (where they are monetarily doing much better than most other congregations) will help the poor Saints. He therefore communicates that to them, and they respond. Consider the checklist to see if it is gossip:
|Is it true, partially true, or false information?|
|Is it negative, private information that is communicated for entertainment?|
|Is it negative, private information communicated for self-aggrandizement?|
|Is it true, partial or false negative, private information that lowers the estimation of the other person or destroys the person’s reputation?|
|Is it true, partial or false negative, private information that spreads bitterness, hurt feelings, rancor (violent anger), and/or other relationship killers?|
|Is it in the form of ‘none-of-your-business’ questions that are asked as if the one asking has the right and even responsibility to ask those questions?|
|Is it true, partially true, or false information that is communicated or asked that adversely affects relationships, raises suspicions, brings hurt feelings, and/or harms trust?|
|Is the communication potentially beneficial without any harm?|
The following is an example of a filled-in table:
|Is it true, partially true, or false information?||It is true information.|
|Is it negative, private information that is communicated for entertainment?||It isn’t private information, and it isn’t for entertainment. It can be viewed as negative, but not regarding the actions and behaviours of those involved. It shows a lack, not a negative behaviour.|
|Is it negative, private information communicated for self-aggrandizement?||No; the person telling it is not made to look larger and more important because of it.|
|Is it true, partial or false negative, private information that lowers the estimation of the other person or destroys the person’s reputation?||It does not do that. Rather, it describes that the person is having a financial difficulty, and raises the reputation of those who are suffering for doing right.|
|Is it true, partial or false negative, private information that spreads bitterness, hurt feelings, rancor (violent anger), and/or other relationship killers?||No, it is instead useful for helping and for increasing bonds of relationship.|
|Is it in the form of ‘none-of-your-business’ questions that are asked as if the one asking has the right and even responsibility to ask those questions?||No.|
|Is it true, partially true, or false information that is communicated or asked that adversely affects relationships, raises suspicions, brings hurt feelings, and/or harms trust?||No.|
|Is the communication potentially beneficial without any harm?||It is; if the group’s financial fall is too great, others who care can then intervene; also, the declaration that others have intervened is beneficial information.|
Thus, we have a principle: Every communication in which a person participates must be for benefit, not for detriment. The above case was for benefit.
“Is a person gossiping if that person warns another that a person not present is participating in some evil practice?”
Suppose that Johnny calls Sammy to tell him that Billy is lying about Sally. Sammy knows Billy and Sally. Sammy wonders why Johnny is saying these things to him about Billy. Sammy knows that Johnny and Billy were good friends only a week ago, and Sammy has not heard anything from Sally. Sammy asks Johnny how he knows that Billy is saying these things, and Johnny says that his sources are good, and that he heard how hurt Sally is. Is this gossip?
Consider the checklist that Sammy can use:
|Is it true, partially true, or false information?||Sammy has no clue. (That is a bad sign.)|
|Is it negative, private information that is communicated for entertainment?||Sammy has no clue. (That is a bad sign.)|
|Is it negative, private information communicated for self-aggrandizement?||Sammy doesn’t feel right about this; it does make Johnny look bigger; Sammy did not find any comment from Johnny indicating that Johnny had done or said anything to help mollify the situation; Johnny is talking, not benefiting.|
|Is it true, partial or false negative, private information that lowers the estimation of the other person or destroys the person’s reputation?||This communication, if believed, will greatly ruin the reputation of Billy, and could do great harm to Sally.|
|Is it true, partial or false negative, private information that spreads bitterness, hurt feelings, rancor (violent anger), and/or other relationship killers?||It absolutely does this.|
|Is it in the form of ‘none-of-your-business’ questions that are asked as if the one asking has the right and even responsibility to ask those questions?||No.|
|Is it true, partially true, or false information that is communicated or asked that adversely affects relationships, raises suspicions, brings hurt feelings, and/or harms trust?||Yes.|
|Is the communication potentially beneficial without any harm?||It is not of any benefit, since Sammy can do nothing about it that is good; it will do harm, and the harm will be great.|
This, therefore, rates as gossip.
“Is a person gossiping if that person warns another person that a third person is a gossip?”
Suppose that Johnny emails Sammy warning Sammy that Billy is gossiping about Sammy. Is this friendly warning gossip? Use the checklist:
|Is it true or false information?||Sammy doesn’t know. Even if Sammy knew, that still wouldn’t help.|
|Is it communicated for the purpose of entertainment?||Sammy doesn’t know. Sammy has no clue regarding Johnny’s motives.|
|Is it communicated for self-aggrandizement?||Sammy doesn’t know why Johnny is communicating this. It appears to be a friendly warning, but Sammy is bothered, because he has a working conscience.|
|Does its communication lower the estimation of the other person or destroy the person’s reputation?||It will destroy the reputation of Billy if Sammy believes it. If Sammy believes it, Sammy will become very angry at Billy.|
|Does it spread bitterness, ranker (violent anger), and other relationship killers?||Absolutely, yes.|
|Is the communication potentially beneficial without any harm?||It absolutely is not; this type of communication always causes harm.|
Thus, it is gossip.
How could Sammy have responded to Johnny in this email communication? One good way to respond is to ask questions of the following variety shown in the email:
Johnny, I received your email about Billy. How did you hear that Billy said what he said? Who told you? Secondly, what did you say to the person who told you, unless you were the witness? If you were the witness, what did you say to Billy? What am I supposed to do with this information? I do not know it firsthand, and I am not permitted to react to the testimony of one even if you are an eyewitness. What would you like me to do with this information? Finally, what are your plans to deal with your source?
If you know that the person will respond with belligerence (that is, will become angry, and will throw back words and actions of anger) and feel insulted by you, you do not have to respond in the way shown above; silence is much wiser. Yet, if you realize that it is worth the risk, including blowing what there is in the relationship to pieces, and you do not desire to relate to that person under that circumstance, ‘have at it.’
When Does Gossip Most Often Occur?
It normally happens in long-term relationships, where the parties involved feel the most relaxed and free to express whatever is on their hearts. The parties then begin to express much more than beneficial facts; they express fears, suspicions, frustrations, slants, and every other form of insecurities leading to ‘flushing mouth disease.’
Gossip is terribly infectious. It leads to folks re-quoting others with embellishments that are often total changes in what occurred.
A violent part of gossip is the setting of motives. Whenever anyone determines the motives of another, that person is God! (Glory!) Only God can know the real motive and intent of any person. He alone can read minds, and He even knows what a person doesn’t know about that person. Thus, be sure to bow down to anyone who tells you the motives of another, and worship him.
How Should One Handle a Person Who is Inquisitive?
Some folks ask, observe, and pry their way into others. They keep questions rolling, observing body language, and drilling until they hit pay dirt. How should they be diplomatically handled?
One way is to say to the person, “That is a good question! You can ask so and so next time you see the person!” If the person is insistent, you can then ask, “Why do you want to know?” That is a cut-off question, because now, you are inspecting that person and that person’s motive straight from the admission of the person.
Folks will gossip in questions. “Did you know about this? I just learned such and such!” If this is in an email, a good way is to delete it, and behave as if it went into limboland, cyberspace.
Another good response is to say, “That really bothers you, doesn’t it! I can tell that it really concerns you!” That will force the person to explain why it is so important. During that time, no gossip is occurring, and the other person is in a sweat.
Another way is to respond, “I think we had better keep our noses out of it.”
The idea is to refuse to be dragged into the gossip chain.
When folks are speaking together in person, diplomacy is far more difficult, and requires practice. It is excellent when properly done. Sometimes, changing the conversation on a fluke is wise. For example, suppose a person is at a party, and is in conversation with the national gossip. The person starts to ask questions. If you see an opportunity at the party, you can deftly say, “Oh, excuse me! I need to help with that table….” And take off.
“Did you know that Billy is saying such and such about you?”
A good response is, “As long as he is picking on me, he is leaving some poor soul alone!” A person who has any strength and sense won’t mind being the topic of gossip if that will relieve another who doesn’t have strength and gossip fortitude from being tormented. Another response is this: “Well, darn, I didn’t know I was that important!”
Thinking before filtering is a great error. Those who are wise and who hear another beginning to do this will smoothly change the topic in order to ‘cover the nakedness of’ the other person. If the person is a thinker, the person will later realize what was done, and will appreciate the move.
The following is a Tribulation text (as all the Proverbs are), warning how to keep from stupidly being killed:
Proverbs 17:9 He who covers a transgression seeks love. And he who repeats a matter separates very friends.
To show just how evil this is, consider this End Times Proverbs text:
Proverbs 6:16 Yehovah hates these six things. Indeed, seven are an abomination unto Him:
- A proud look
- A lying tongue
- Hands that shed innocent blood
- A heart that devises wicked imaginations
- Feet that are swift in running to mischief [violence]
- A false witness that speaking lies
- He who sows discord among brethren.
Several of these are persons, not acts. Yehovah hates every person who sows discord among brethren. There is no exception. No person in that category can possibly be born of God doing that. Sowing discord is necessarily always in the form of gossip, and it is combined with bitterness. Pride is always participant in gossip and bitterness. No person can possibly have bitterness of the evil type without pride; every gossip shows pride. Being hated by Yehovah doesn’t sound too good.
Some folks gossip with the idea of benefiting. They really think in their perverted little minds that they are doing good. If they were, they would be part of the solution, and not diagnosticians.
If a person gives his opinion or comment on a situation, is that gossip?
Suppose that Johnny gives his opinion to Sammy that a particular doctor isn’t a good doctor, because Johnny didn’t like him. Johnny says to Sammy, “The doctor didn’t spend any time with me, and I don’t think that he really knows what he is doing.” Is this gossip? Consider the checklist:
|Is it true or false information?||Sammy doesn’t know.|
|Is it communicated for the purpose of entertainment?||There is no evidence that this is for entertainment.|
|Is it communicated for self-aggrandizement?||Sammy doesn’t know; Johnny may give the impression that he is expert on many things; it would be, in that case. Otherwise, it may or may not be.|
|Does its communication lower the estimation of the other person or destroy the person’s reputation?||Yes. (That doesn’t mean that it is false.)|
|Does it spread bitterness, ranker (violent anger), and other relationship killers?||It doesn’t, in this case; it isn’t a personal relationship.|
|Is the communication potentially beneficial without any harm?||It is potentially beneficial, but then, it may be false, and even harmful. That doctor may have done well with others.|
This may not fit the idea of gossip, but it still should be taken as one person’s opinion, and not as fact. If several (who do not know Johnny) testify that the doctor isn’t the best, that may be wise to consider.
The Case of the Bad Doctor
Suppose that Johnny needs surgery. He asks Sammy about Doctor Gutt. Sammy tells Johnny that he has heard other folks that have used this doctor speak of him in a negative way. In Sammy’s mind, his intent is to benefit Johnny. Is this gossip?
|Is it true or false information?||Sammy doesn’t know.|
|Is it communicated for the purpose of entertainment?||No.|
|Is it communicated for self-aggrandizement?||That is unlikely.|
|Does its communication lower the estimation of the other person or destroy the person’s reputation?||It certainly lowers the estimation of Doctor Gutt, and it could destroy his reputation if it were spread widely. On the other hand, Doctor Gutt may be destroying his own reputation.|
|Does it spread bitterness, ranker (violent anger), and other relationship killers?||There is no indication that these folks have a relationship with Doctor Gutt. This might prevent it.|
|Is the communication potentially beneficial without any harm?||It is potentially beneficial, and it doesn’t have to have harm if it is true. It could greatly lower the confidence that Sammy has in the doctor when surgery requires confidence. That would be harmful.|
There is nothing wrong with obtaining recommendations for a profession and a person in that profession. Some web sites are dedicated to gathering testimonies from various sources regarding professions including medicine. So often, one person can receive excellent treatment, and another what the person considers terrible treatment from the same professional. Still, obtaining recommendations is not wrong. It is right, however, to go straight to the sources (the previous patients). Listening to a third party describe these recommendations isn’t the right way to go about this.
Is Discussing a Relationship Gossip?
Suppose Johnny and Sammy are emailing each other. Johnny has a problem with Billy, and tells Sammy about the problem. Sammy writes back, and gives Johnny ideas of how to be wise, how to benefit, and how to handle communications with Billy that if taken, may truly lead to a better relationship and solution to the problem between Johnny and Billy. Is this gossip?
|Is it true or false information?||Sammy won’t know, but if he is wise, he will temporarily consider that Johnny’s testimony is true for the sake of the email conversation.|
|Is it communicated for the purpose of entertainment?||No. Johnny has expressed frustration. He is concerned.|
|Is it communicated for self-aggrandizement?||No.|
|Does its communication lower the estimation of the other person or destroy the person’s reputation?||Sammy easily can refuse to believe what Johnny said about Billy while advising Johnny; that is being disinterested.|
|Does it spread bitterness, ranker (violent anger), and other relationship killers?||No; it does the opposite. The idea is to help Johnny do right in his relationship with Billy.|
|Is the communication potentially beneficial without any harm?||It is as long as Johnny doesn’t later use it as a weapon. (That is a risk that is usually worth taking.)|
It is not gossip. It is actually a good way to hone each other in relationship propriety.
Is forwarding an email to a third party gossip if the email contains anything pertaining to the third party without the third party knowing that the email was communicated?
Suppose Johnny sends the following email to Sammy:
From Billy to Johnny
Johnny, I received your note. I really resent what Sammy said at the event. It wasn’t true, and he had no right to say it. I find Sammy to always be saying things like that; he has hurt many folks.
This is indeed gossip.
Is Prayer a Potential Form of Gossip?
Johnny sees Sammy, and describes that Billy is having a difficulty. Johnny then prays, and gives information about Billy that Billy would not want known. The information he gives isn’t pertinent to the solution, but is used so that Sammy will fully understand everything that Johnny knows (or thinks he knows) about Billy and situation. Is this gossip?
|Is it true or false information?||Sammy doesn’t know if it is true, partially true, or completely false. It probably won’t be completely false.|
|Is it communicated for the purpose of entertainment?||Most public prayers are. No matter what folks think about public prayers, most are for entertainment, and not for the real situation. One can tell; think of how little affected the one praying and those hearing are by the prayer. A prayer that is not for entertainment will be heartfelt by all concerned.|
|Is it communicated for self-aggrandizement?||Yes, it is. No matter what Johnny thinks he is doing, he is still bragging about how much he knows of the situation. That is self-aggrandizement.|
|Does its communication lower the estimation of the other person or destroy the person’s reputation?||It certainly does.|
|Does it spread bitterness, ranker (violent anger), and other relationship killers?||Yes. It depends on the hearer and the wisdom of the hearer, but in normal hands, yes.|
|Is the communication potentially beneficial without any harm?||No. It can be very harmful.|
Prayer is often used as a vehicle for gossip. Missionary letters home can be used the same way.
There are valid and good reasons for group prayer:
- If the prayer is for the group so that the group itself can be beneficial and/or withstand persecution
- If the prayer involves all in the group regarding another for whom the prayer is being given, all in the group desiring to benefit that person
- If the person praying desires witnesses of the contents of the prayer so that the details will be recognized if Yehovah grants the prayer, the witnesses being or not being in faith
Is a Request for Prayer by the Person Present a Potential Outlet for Gossip?
Johnny asks Sammy for prayer, because Johnny is struggling. Johnny says, “Sammy, pray for me; I am struggling and frustrated. Billy is spreading rumours, Sally now hates me, and every time I get together with them, I am miserable. They make me feel so uncomfortable. I don’t like the way they talk about others, and they are mean to me and to others.” Is this gossip? What Johnny is doing can easily be a means of gossip. The issue now lies with Sammy. What he does with it makes the difference. Does he give wise counsel to Johnny? Does he believe Johnny? Prayer and gossip can easily be the same thing.
When folks are quick to place blame on others for many things, they, themselves are bitter, and they are gossips, especially when they are Teflon. No accusation of wrongdoing on their parts ever sticks to them; they are always innocent.
When folks are quick to call others liars (even if they are), they themselves are confessing being a liar. Self-deceit is the first step toward bitterness, and it is what makes folks unable to see truth. Even when confronted with the truth, they accuse others as if they are looking in a mirror, because all they see are themselves. If they were to see the very image of God on others, they might see Truth. Instead, they only see themselves, and that in the best light, while they see others as what they themselves are.
Can an Accusation be a Way of Pumping a Person for Gossip?
Johnny is conversing with Sammy. Johnny says, “Well, you were rude to Billy, and he is still hurt over it.” Sammy answers, “I was not! Billy deserved everything I said because he did this, this and this!” Johnny then tells Sally and Billy what Sammy said.
A common practice with news folks is to start with a false premise so that the responder will feel obligated to expound, defend, and give information that he or she otherwise would not have given. It is brilliant. A good answer would be, “Where did you learn that? Next question, please.”
A Person Asks for an Opinion
Johnny and Sammy and emailing. Johnny asks Sammy for his opinion on a situation that involves Billy and Sally. Johnny says, “Billy and Sally are trying to get the fellowship hall painted green, and they are saying that any other color is just not intelligent. What do you think?” Is this gossip, or can this introduce gossip?
|Is it true or false information?||Sammy doesn’t know.|
|Is it communicated for the purpose of entertainment?||Not in this case.|
|Is it communicated for self-aggrandizement?||It could; Sammy doesn’t know.|
|Does its communication lower the estimation of the other person or destroy the person’s reputation?||Yes, it does, and it certainly could, because Johnny worded it in such a way that it makes Billy and Sally seem narrow-minded and even potentially belligerent.|
|Does it spread bitterness, ranker (violent anger), and other relationship killers?||Yes; if Sammy believes this, and likes blue, it could make for hard feelings and kill relationships.|
|Is the communication potentially beneficial without any harm?||Because we had to think so long on this, the answer is that it can produce harm. The benefit of the communication is uncertain.|
Thus, it is gossip. This has to do with the way Johnny worded it. Consider the following communication to see the difference:
“I heard several others describe their desire that the fellowship hall be painted green. They do not seem to consider other colors as potentially beneficial. Do you have a color in mind, and if so, can you describe good reasons for considering other colors?” In this conversation, it may be that the undescribed person used to be an interior decorator, and has good reasons for a particular color choice. The point, then, is often how a communication is worded. If the topic is the color of the paint, and not the individuals involved, that isn’t gossip. It is totally impossible to gossip about a paint color.
When Johnny tells Sammy his opinions of what occurred, Sammy will be wise if he starts by telling Johnny that he (Sammy) wasn’t there, and doesn’t know what transpired from God’s perspective. Sammy, then, will not assume that everything that Johnny said is “God’s truth.” Then, Sammy should concentrate on Johhny’s behaviour and responses, not on the behaviour and responses of the third part. That way, Sammy is being a good friend to Johnny. (Johnny won’t like it.)
Matthew 12:36 But I say unto you, that every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment.
Defensiveness in conversations is the worst way to proper gossip and to kill relationships. The classic novels portray this so well. Being defensive is only beneficial under the rarest of circumstances. Those who are wise will not defend, but will consider the other persons (I am speak of the accusers), and will seek to be of benefit to their mitigation of bitterness if at all possible. (In far too many cases, it isn’t possible, because persons with bitterness feel gravely insulted if anyone seeks to try to alleviate the bitterness; it is their baby! It is their child! It is the very foundation of the justice upon which they have stood! Speaking against the bitterness in any way is as if you are slapping the person across the face and making the very reasons for the bitterness seem minor.
Do not defend yourself in these conversations, and do not defend those whom you love or those whom you don’t love. Defending those whom you love will act as a perverted proof that you know the badness of their character; their character should stand on its own. Those who defend the ones they love the most are doing what appears to be a cover up. Defenses always feed gossip chains! Gossip cannot survive silence; it must always be communicating. Defending is a form of communication; it is gossip food.
One accusation of a very bitter person who is gossiping is this: “You are on so-and-so’s side! You have taken that person’s position!” Then, that person communicates this to others who are gullible. A gullible person is one who takes information as if it is truth and doesn’t even look to see if it is truth. No person can be both wise and gullible at the same time:
Psalms 19:7 The Teaching of Yehovah is perfect, restoring the being. The testimony of Yehovah is certain, making the gullible wise.
A gullible person is a sucker.
There are some who are mentally retarded; their learning curve is very low compared to the general population. They are gullible; they believe what folks say because they respect them. If they are taught the Teaching of Yehovah, however, they can exceed in wisdom far above geniuses.
Bitterness is a baby that a person loves. Don’t touch that baby if the person is showing this symptom. Don’t! You will get burned.
There are times when ignoring (that is, not responding to) a person’s bitterness is very wise. There are times when it is not wise. Experience will teach the difference.
The Pajama Case
Sally’s daughter Judi just had a baby: her second one. Sally’s best friend is Susie. Susie and Sally are talking. Lilly knows both Sally and Susie from school days, though Lilly isn’t in regular contact with Judi or Sally. Lilly asks Susie if it was necessary for Lilly to purchase a gift for the new grandbaby. (The answer was not specific.) This conversation was later repeated to Sally. Sally became upset. She showed that she was upset with Lilly. This gave Lilly the impression that she did need to give a gift to Judi for her baby to avoid hurt. Lilly obtained a gift, and took it to Judi, being accompanied by Susie. Judi took the gift, but gave no response of thankfulness; she was very cold. Had gossip taken place?
There is no true proof that gossip occurred, but there was also no reason that Judi should respond the way she did unless something had been said. Gossip itself is not the real problem; the recipient of gossip is the real problem in cases like this. Anyone who receives gossip, then behaves differently on the basis of gossip is the wrongdoer that does damage as great as the gossip and gossiper themselves.
The best way to react to gossip is one of the following (and there can be other ways):
- Ignore it
- Place it back into the craw of the one speaking it: that is, cause the gossiper to be responsible for doing benefit, since that person is the reporter. A reporter who only reports and doesn’t help (if help is possible) is an evil person even if the person works for a newspaper.
Man and Wife Gossip
Johnny and Sally are married. Johnny tells Sally information that is gossip if it goes beyond their conversation to the ears of others. Do husbands and wives have the right to tell each other whatever they want about others? Husbands and wives have responsibilities. Folks who focus on rights never focus on responsibilities. Folks who focus on responsibilities rarely mention rights. Those who focus on responsibilities have sense; those who focus on rights are set for bitterness. Husbands and wives should theoretically be able to speak with each other without boundaries; this isn’t real life, unfortunately. They must be diplomatic with each other in most cases. If a husband knows that saying something about another will affect his wife in such a way that she will have a hard time being normal with that person, he doesn’t need to say anything unless his wife will be in danger.
Some forms of gossip are just obvious. Some gossipers are just obvious. They speak in a different way, they physically position themselves in a different way, and they move their eyes in a particular way that advertises that they are gossiping. Since this document is for the purpose of communication forms that might be far more difficult to spot, I will not try to cover the many obvious gossip scenarios.
Men Versus Women
Many are convinced that women are more gossipy than men. If this were true, it would be based on an obvious observation: women communicate more than men in many cultures. The worst gossipers are not necessarily women. Men early learn to gossip in school. Their type of gossip is more deadly. Entire wars are run on campaigns of gossip: spreading fear, rumours and lies about enemies. If truth were spoken during wars, some wars would fall apart.
The Attack of Cowards
Gossip is a form of attack. It is used by cowards, persons with low or non-existent morality, and the worst scum of society. Gutter-bound incurable drunks who beg for money for alcohol are far higher on the morality level than gossips. Yet, gossips are found among the highest-ranking persons in society. High-society gossip is deadly entertainment; entire magazines are dedicated and devoted to it. It is Biblically worse than blood sports done in the Roman arenas. Yet, it is considered an acceptable practice by a large majority of the population, including many who are fervent and dedicated churchgoers. How many sermons per year are dedicated to defining and decrying gossip?
It is masked and morphed into many forms. One form is anger. The following is an example.
Johnny is communicating with Sammy by email. Johnny writes the following email:
How could you listen to Billy? You know that Billy is a liar. Billy has always been a liar! You don’t know what Billy did to Sally, and I can’t tell you that because I was told in confidence. I assure you, Billy is a liar, and you are siding with Billy! Can’t you see who your real friends are? How can you take sides with Billy? Billy did terrible things to Sally! You need to wake up!
Several things should be evident about this email. First, Johnny is furious with Billy, and Johnny is now becoming furious with Sammy just because Sammy won’t take Johnny’s word about Billy. Sammy doesn’t have Johnny’s information; yet Johnny expects Sammy to take Johnny’s word that Billy is a terrible person and a liar. Johnny is a violent gossip, and a very bitter person. Yet, Johnny has no clue that he is both of these. Johnny feels more like a victim—a victim of Sammy (for not believing him without evidence).
Johnny is outraged that Sammy could even listen to Billy. As far as Johnny is concerned, even listening to Billy is a great moral evil on Sammy’s part! Johnny’s bitterness is so great, that it will destroy Johnny. He will physically be ruined!
Johnny’s accusation that Billy is a liar is pure and open gossip. (Even if Billy is the world’s worst liar, Sammy doesn’t know this or have evidence of this; thus, Johnny is gossiping. Gossip is worse than lying, in the Bible; gossip always involves lies or unproven half-truths.
The statement, “You don’t know what Billy did to Sally, and I can’t tell you that because I was told in confidence” is another form of gossip. It is very self-aggrandizing (showing a pride level on the part of the speaker that is far above normal evil pride). It is also what I call, “junior high,” meaning that it is the type of communication that mean-spirited and evil junior high students (grades seven through nine) would say and use. Many adults never advance in their sense, justice, or social skills beyond junior high.
Next comes the statement, “I assure you, Billy is a liar, and you are siding with Billy!” Sammy will be very wise to soon have nothing to do with Johnny. Johnny is using a friendship to twist the arm of a friend into violating every principle of proper justice. The whole concept of, “Take my word for it!” is a violation of justice.
Here is the twisting and perverting of propriety: “Billy is a liar, and you are siding with Billy!” This accusation is akin to stating, “If you don’t believe me over and above any information from any other source that you might use, you are siding with Billy against all justice!” Thus, a person who desires to judge in the Biblical manner is taking sides by refusing to be biased. Now, that is a lie! It is also gossip, though it is said straight to the other person. (Such an accuser won’t just communicate this to the person involved; that person will tell it to others, and will spread rumours and gossip about the person, about Sammy, in this case.)
The plea comes: “Can’t you see who your real friends are?” This is a plea that is akin to a lawyer and a judge deciding a case while sitting in Joe’s Bar, with the lawyer telling the judge, “Remember who are your friends in the upcoming election!” It is a plea for corruption. It shows the most vile and villainous type of character.
The question, “How can you take sides with Billy?” Is akin to the question, “Have you stopped beating your wife yet?” Sammy hasn’t taken any sides, but Johnny is fully convinced that he has!
Next comes another juicy piece of gossip: “Billy did terrible things to Sally!” Johnny really thinks in his perverted mind that he just kept a confidence and didn’t gossip! After all, he didn’t give details. In truth, he just acted out the worst form of gossip; it is based on accusations without proof or evidence.
The final statement, “You need to wake up!” is true. Sammy does need to wake up. He needs to quit communicating with a bitter and vicious gossip who has degraded himself to the lowest forms of ungodly violence and hatred, and who desires to spread his bitterness to as many as will listen. Yet, Johnny feels very justified in his stands. Many gossips don’t know they are gossips, and would openly state that gossip is a terrible sin!
Another Root Cause of Gossip
Where does gossip like this arise, especially in a person (like Johnny) who would condemn gossipers? It arises from bitterness. While I have mentioned bitterness several times in this document, I have a separate document on bitterness that is designed for children. Some gossip for the entertainment value; others use gossip as a spy would spread lies in order to undermine rivals.
Gossipers usually fear gossip! They know the power of it; they don’t desire to be targeted. This produces a form of paranoia to which gossipers are very susceptible.
Let folks compare notes on gossipers in such a way that the gossipers know they are being closely viewed and their actions are being weighed, and they will demonstrate this paranoia. It can show itself in the form of strong belligerence and threats, and it can show itself in the form of very strong defensiveness (to try to ‘prove’ that the communications were not gossip, but were truth). Gossipers feel violated when they are topics of conversation in which they are not present.
They can dish it out; they cannot take it.
Can a Gossiper be Born of God?
Some Saints have gossiped. It is quite possible for a person to gossip without realizing that he has done this. That doesn’t make it innocent; it shows that the person was involved in self-deception. The gossiper who didn’t realize that something was gossip hasn’t understood propriety in communications. If the person is indeed born of God, the person will be easily correctable. Every fearer of God has received the love ofthe truth, besides the truth. One who loves the truth will always be correctable. One who defends and fights off correction with something akin to, “I know I am right, and I know I did right in this case” has not received the love of the truth. Find anyone who isn’t correctable, and that person isn’t born of God.
Gossips love gossips. Folks tend to team up with gossips. They fear each other, because any team member can then gossip about another who is part of the team, and can ruin that person’s reputation. Thus, gossips will do what is necessary to please other members of the gossip team. There is usually one leader; the rest bow to the gossip leader. If even a slight suspicion of disloyalty arises, the gossip leader will quickly spread a rumour about the disloyal person, and that person’s reputation will be destroyed within the group. This is also ‘junior high.’
Because the fear of being badly viewed is so high, any supposed fear of God will quickly be of no consequence compared to the fear of being smeared. The following is an example:
Johnny, Billy and Sally are team gossips. Billy is very bitter against his father, and Sally is bitter against her aunt. Johnny is just bitter against almost everyone, but supposes that he fears God. Johnny is speaking to Sammy; Sammy has nothing to do with gossip, and he also hates bad bitterness. Johnny and Sammy previously got along very well; they both enjoyed looking at the Bible together. Now, in Johnny’s and Sammy’s conversation, Sammy speaks well of Billy’s father. Johnny tells Sammy that Billy’s father is no good. This makes no sense to Sammy; he wonders where Johnny gets this. As their conversation progresses, Johnny becomes more and more angry that Sammy just doesn’t see how bad Billy’s father is. One problem is that Johnny fears Billy gaining a bad view of Johnny. That fear is so strong, that soon Johnny’s and Sammy’s relationship is destroyed. Sammy doesn’t know what happened, or why. Sammy wasn’t defending anyone; he just wouldn’t go along with Johnny’s assessment. Sammy didn’t know that Johnny, Billy and Sally were team gossips. Had he known this, he might have been wiser, and avoided Johnny in the first place.
Johnny and Sammy are working together in one area of an office, and Billy and Sally work in another. Billy and Sally must code information so that Johnny and Sammy can then process it; this is a normal daily function. Billy and Sally become angry for some reason, and refuse to code up to speed. Johnny and Sammy wait for the coded material to come so that they can do their work. This work slow-down becomes obvious to Johnny and Sammy who may have to work overtime to catch up because of the intentional slow-down of Billy and Sally. Johnny and Sammy discuss what Billy and Sally are doing. Does this constitute gossip? Consider the checklist:
|Is it true or false information?||It is true information.|
|Is it communicated for the purpose of entertainment?||It is not for entertainment; it is part of a work function.|
|Is it communicated for self-aggrandizement?||It is not communicated for this purpose.|
|Does its communication lower the estimation of the other person or destroy the person’s reputation?||The communication itself has no effect on the reputation of Billy or Sally; the communication has to do with proper functioning of the office.|
|Does it spread bitterness, ranker (violent anger), and other relationship killers?||It does not do that as long as Sammy and Johnny keep the communication professional without personal comments about Billy and Sally.|
|Is the communication potentially beneficial without any harm?||It is potentially beneficial; it can be used to participate in solving the disgruntled work slow-down frustration of Billy and Sally.|
If in Sammy’s and Johnny’s communication expressions are of disappointment in Billy and Sally and of their manipulation to the system, to others, and to get what they desire, this falls either one way or the other. It is gossip if Sammy and Johnny flame up the anger toward Billy and Sally, and do no benefit. If, on the other hand, Sammy and Johnny carefully consider how they can benefit both the office and Billy and Sally by assuaging (lessening the potency of) Billy’s and Sally’s anger and frustration at being overworked, according to them, this is not gossip. Sammy and Johnny may not be in a position to do anything beneficial, but if they at least do not use words and actions to do harm, and if they desire to be beneficial if they can, they are not gossiping; they are demonstrating proper character.
Overhearing or Witnessing a Personal Attack Conversation
Johnny, Sammy, Billy and Sally are in a crowded room. Billy is expressing very strong words to Sally, describing that she has done wrong and has hurt others. Sammy overhears or witnesses this conversation, and is aware of much more than what he is hearing. He knows that Sally’s behaviour and deportment (how one conducts oneself and carries oneself before others) have been excellent; not merely good, but in every way beyond all reproach. Sammy sees that Sally is not defending herself, and that she is devastated by the strong and accusatory words of Billy. Sally begins to move toward the exit of the gathering. Sammy moves in her direction, and catches up to her. He starts by saying to her that he did overhear the conversation, and that Billy is wrong in his observations about Sally and about the situation. Is this gossip?
As long as Sammy is very careful not to say things that he shouldn’t about Billy, but instead keeps the conversation about Sally and her good conduct, he may freely state that Billy does not properly understand the issues that he spoke with her. That is not gossip. Sammy can be of use to Sally to console her to a little degree in this issue.
Suppose that Sammy tells Sally that Billy is a bitter person who states things and accuses folks without knowing the facts. Is this gossip?
This paper is opinion without Biblical text!