Beware the Gossipmonger

Note: These scenarios are not gender specific. Male and female roles can be switched, depending on your own experiences in the matter.

Somebody you know drops by to your place for a visit and then proceeds to badmouth Mr. X or Ms. Y—after, of course, obtaining your affirmation that she is not gossiping but merely "sharing." This is what you do:

a. Decide it would be impolite to tell her to shut up; besides you are a little curious to know what folks around you are saying about Mr. X or Ms. Y.

b. Tell the person to her face that you'd rather not engage in the conversation, even though you know it could very well jeopardize your relationship.

c. Listen with great eagerness interspersing every second statement with gushed, "Oh really?" or "How shocking!", thereby ensuring that the verbal flow of diarrhoea doesn't stop.

d. Pitch in with your own contributions, embellishing all of them with copious amounts of garnish to make it more interesting.

You might find it interesting to note that the word "devil" in Greek translates as "a slanderer," so whenever we engage in a slanderous conversation we become devilish—quite literally. All slander has its roots in gossip, and there is perhaps no sin that is more obscene or more damaging, both to others and to self. To others, because it trashes reputations and ruins lives, very often of the innocent. To self, because it jeopardizes our very salvation! In the understanding of this fact, lies the antidote to gossiping, so let's take a look at a few things that Scripture says about gossip—or the careless use of the tongue:

The Sewage Dispenser
There is no other term to describe those who engage in the practice of gossip really, and though it is hard to believe that applying such a label on gossipmongers will contribute to the cessation of their habits, it might help to take away some of the "social acceptability" that they have. And they really need to lose it. We all believe that gossip is something that everybody engages in, so it is okay. It isn't okay. A gossip is someone who tries to plant unsubstantiated rumors about someone and the damage that it does to people, often innocent, is tremendous. What's worse is that it is never easily repairable, even if one happens to regret it later. But the damage that it does to the gossipmonger himself/herself is permanent!

1. Jesus warns: But I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken. For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned." (Matthew 12:36-37)

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

3. ... nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. (1 Corinthians 6:10)

4. Peter too warns about the suffering that will meet the busybody, equating such people with murderers and thieves. "If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler." (1 Peter 4:15) The dictionary defines a meddler as "a person who seeks confidential information about others; a snoop; a nosy person.”

5. With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God's likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be. (James 3:9-10)
And if Scripture doesn't impress you, understanding this fact might: If your friend talks about somebody to you, you can bet anything you want that your friend talks about you to somebody!

Many people I know, especially those reluctant to engage in gossip, prefer to exercise option (a). The reasons are more than those stated and often includes the very real fear that upsetting the gossipmonger—usually a person with a very vindictive nature—would result in vicious attacks against oneself. So the best thing to do (they reason), is to pander to the gossipmonger. But this can have worse consequences. Jesus, as quoted in Matthew 10:28, warns: "Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell." When you engage in a conversation that God warns against, even without contributing anything to it yourself, you are a fellow participant in a sin. So cut the person off right at the pass with a polite, but firm: I don't think I want to hear about that. And if you lose your "friend", perhaps you are better off with him/her lost. (For a guide on how to determine if someone is gossiping or not, check out SocratesTriple Filter Test.)

If you answered yes to options (c) and (d), you are a gossipmonger yourself and need to stop. It might help you to realize that you may be engaging in gossipmongering because of a sense of low self-esteem and personal insecurity. Spend time in personal prayer, establishing a relationship with Jesus, who will give you a sense of identity and security in Him and the Holy Trinity.

The Triple Filter Test
In ancient Greece (469 - 399 B.C.), Socrates was widely lauded for his wisdom. One day the great philosopher came upon an acquaintance who ran up to him excitedly and said, "Socrates, do you know what I just heard about one of your students?" "Wait a moment," Socrates replied. "Before you tell me I'd like you to pass a little test. It's called the Triple Filter Test." 

The first filter is Truth. Have you made absolutely sure that what you are about to tell me is true?”

“Well, no,” the man said, “actually I just heard about it and…”

“All right,” said Socrates. “So you don’t really know if it’s true or not. Now, let’s try the second filter, the filter of Goodness. Is what you are about to tell me about my friend something good?”

“Umm, no, on the contrary…”

“So,” Socrates continued, “you want to tell me something bad about my friend, but you are not certain it’s true. You may still pass the test though, because there’s one filter left — the filter of Usefulness. Is what you want to tell me about my friend going to be useful to me?”

“No, not really.”

“Well,” concluded Socrates, “if what you want to tell me is neither true, nor good, nor even useful, why tell it to me at all?”