“Did you hear what happened?” “I would never…” “How could she?” “Can you believe…?” “You didn’t hear this from me, but…” “I can trust you not to say anything, right?”
Gossip: the age-old invasion of privacy through sharing knowledge for the sake of what? Tearing someone down? Elevating one self? Being the bearer of … news? Feeling included and important when someone leans in a little closer to hear more?
Gossip girl, you have the power to completely undermine the integrity of another individual. Your words hold influence of how one person views another. I know from experience that when I have been the recipient – the hearer of gossip – I can’t get that out of my head. My view of said-person has now been changed, shifted, warped. It’s hard to see that person in the same light as before.
Perhaps you’re not putting someone down, just sharing someone’s ill fortune. But is it yours to share?
Sometimes there is an attempt to rationalize gossip behind the thought that “I’d say it to her face, too.” But would you? Would you really? And does that justify what you are speaking freely about? Have you thought about that person’s feelings? What it does to their family? How it affects those around you?
Behind every line of gossip is a woman, sister, mother, daughter who is just trying to juggle life. Maybe she made a bad choice, but she doesn’t need your judgment added to her own punishment. Maybe she is suffering, but she doesn’t need the added pain of people making her business their business. Or maybe it’s a lie entirely and it discredits her to her boss, to her friends and to those who are influenced by her.
But also, you are discrediting yourself. People will lose trust in you. They will think, “Well, I wonder what she says about me?” Or people who are influenced by you will think that it’s ok to do the same. And possibly worst of all, your kids hear you. They pick up on what you are saying, your nuances, your change in tone and lowering of your voice; how you glance around to see who may be around to overhear.
Now, I’m not pointing out the splinter in everyone’s eye without seeing the log in my own because I am completely guilty of gossiping at one time or another. However, as the victim of gossip, the spreading of lies and half-stories, with each retelling adding more and more drama, I have experienced the force of the hurt and pain that is caused by mere words. And it is crushing.
Following a season of being the center of gossip, I have been overwhelmed by:
- Insecurity – Who else is talking about me? Does everyone know?
- Distrust – Is there anyone I can trust?
- Sadness – Why would someone say that?
- Anger – But that’s not true! How could you?
- Loneliness – Whom can I turn to?
- Anxiety, depression, self-pity, a broken heart…
I have witnessed how gossip tears groups of friends apart because ultimately, your friends will choose sides. Things are never the same again. You will be tempted to gossip back, because everyone comes to you with questions, stories and opinions. It baits you into wanting to stand your ground, return the gesture, recruit people to your side, and point fingers. Don’t do it. Don’t stoop.
Gossip girl, your words may have power, but you have taught me so many lessons that hold even more power:
- Forgiveness – Forgiving doesn’t mean forgetting, but I do forgive you.
- Boundaries – I can forgive you, but we can’t be friends.
- Self-control – Gossiping back would have been easy, but would have hurt you.
- Love – I don’t want to hurt you.
- Growth – I can move on and be stronger from the experience.
- Friendship – It builds each other up, doesn’t tear each other down.
- Encouragement – I will no longer take encouragement for granted, but see it as a gift of a true friend.
- Identity – It is in my faith in God and who He says I am, not in what others say.
- Integrity trumps curiosity – I can stop gossip instead of encourage it.
- Reciprocity – Through spreading gossip, that I have potentially made others feel how I felt being the center of gossip.
Here’s the thing about gossip: most often, we don’t even realize we do it! It can be sneaky like that! We don’t recognize the high we get from sharing just a little bit of information that someone else doesn’t know. And we don’t realize that our curiosity begs us to ask more questions to know more, and to want to fill in the missing pieces.
“Fire goes out without wood, and quarrels disappear when gossip stops.” Proverbs 26:20
Girl, you have the power to STOP gossip. Women need to stop tearing down women. We need to stop being nosy. We need to stop tearing each other down. Instead of spreading it, we can keep it from spilling from our lips. We can walk away from gossip. We can tell someone, “That’s ok, I don’t need to know.” You can counter the gossip with sharing something beautiful and kind about the person.
How do you separate gossip from simply sharing information?
- Do you have permission to share?
- Are you concerned with the person’s well-being?
- Is what you are saying to help or get help for the person or just to spread the news?
- Who is your information coming from? The source itself or someone who heard through the grapevine?
- How do you feel about what you are saying? Proud? Important? Secretive? Vindicated?
- How would the other person feel to hear what you are saying?
- How would you react if you caught your child repeating this about one of his/her friends?