Scoundrels concoct evil,
and their speech is like a scorching fire.
A perverse person spreads strife,
and a whisperer separates close friends.
The violent entice their neighbours,
and lead them in a way that is not good.
2 Corinthians 12:20
For I fear that when I come, I may find you not as I wish, and that you may find me not as you wish; I fear that there may perhaps be quarrelling, jealousy, anger, selfishness, slander, gossip, conceit, and disorder.
Ever ‘felt your ears burning’ when you come across a group of friends, colleagues or other group of people and know that you are being talked about?
Being talked about can be a good thing if it’s in relation to care, love and kindness. Being talked about can be a good thing if it’s spreading the Gospel, telling people about Jesus. ‘Gossiping the Gospel’ is sometimes used as a way of sharing faith in conversation, talking about Jesus in a natural, easy way.
But gossip and ‘whispering’ as the writer of Proverbs has it, can be malicious, unkind, or hateful. Sometimes people tell stories that are slanderous or vicious about people because they like the attention it brings them or the interest shown in them by people who want to know the gossip. Sometimes it’s just idle chatter; sometimes it’s targeted venom.
To know that you are the subject of gossip, of whispers, can be profoundly demoralising and damaging to a person’s sense of self-esteem. People with fragile mental health may sometimes imagine from a few social cues, that they are being talked about, laughed at behind their backs, and suffer a sense of humiliation and belittlement.
Ephesians 4.29 recommends that: ‘..no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only what is useful for building up, as there is need, so that your words may give grace to those who hear’. In other words, if we are serious about building a community of good relationships, good conversations and mutuality, it matters what we say and how we say it. We need to beware of juicy gossip and behind-the-back speculation and be aware of the hurt it can do. Guarding our tongues is both a virtue and a skill and often does not come easy. Instead, when we talk about others who are not present, we could do more to speak kindly, or with reservation. We could all perhaps do more to learn to speak well, or at least more generously, of people.
Some questions for reflection:
- How do you think gossip and being talked about does damage to relationships?
- Why do you think people enjoy scandalous stories and gossip?
- How can we work together to repair the damage from gossiping?
- What is ‘good’ gossip; what makes a positive form of story-telling about others? About Jesus?
- What do we have to do to offer grace-filled words?
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