Heal Gossip's Lies

By Staff Writer with input from Christina Green, Chloe Jamerson, Matthew Takao

Categories: Peer Pressure

Most of us would say that gossip is bad. Yet, gossip seems to be a part of everyday life, despite the fact that one of the commandments tells us:

Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour. (Ex. 20:16)

This is a clear command, a rule, a law. The law is further explained in Leviticus:

Thou shalt not go up and down as a talebearer among thy people. (19:16)

Don't spread gossip or rumors. (The Message, Lev. 19:16)

There it is, plain and simple. We are not to tell lies about others, not to spread rumors, not to be a "witness" to others' faults. The need to be more alert to gossip -- ending it and not starting it or participating in it -- was important enough for three ninth graders -- Christina Green, Chloe Jamerson, and Matthew Takao -- to send in their ideas about gossip.

Why do people gossip?
Well, talking about others is the norm; everyone does it. "The media is the legal gossip station in life," says Matthew. It's the "in" thing to do. Christina affirms, "We all have asked ourselves why people gossip. I believe it is for their own pleasure. By making someone else lower than them, they evidently feel better about themselves." Matthew adds, "As soon as you start comparing yourself to others, you're gossiping with yourself. Gossip nags at your thoughts, telling you that someone else is better or worse than you. Maybe people listen to gossip because they put themselves first or feel that listening to others' misfortune will become a source of happiness."

If people gossip to feel better about themselves or to find happiness, does it work?
The short and honest answer is, "No." Matthew says that "joy comes from simply sitting down and recognizing or finding yourself, striving to understand that God is all, and realizing that you are His reflection." In other words, the source of real happiness is in knowing that we are God's "image," as Genesis 1:26 so clearly states. Gossip keeps us from having a pure vision of others, ourselves, and God. Matthew suggests: "Try thinking of your thoughts as a window. Hate and jealousy come in big amounts and can be wiped off easily. But gossip comes in tiny spots that are hard to see. Before you know it, gossip has spread all over your nice, clean window. The image of God on the other side becomes blurry and unfocused." If our image of God is blurred, then our image of ourselves and others is blurred, marred. Matthew insists, "Before trying to get to know God, make sure you're getting the right image of Him." We need to make sure our thoughts, our window panes, are free from gossip, free from dishonest or cruel pictures of others or of ourselves if we truly want to feel the happiness that comes from God, who is "love" (I John 4:8).

Proverbs gives us practical reasons why we shouldn't gossip:

Watch your words and hold your tongue;
     you'll save yourself a lot of grief. (The Message, Prov. 21:23)

He that hideth hatred with lying lips, and he that uttereth a slander, is a fool. (KJV Prov. 10:18)

Gossip keeps "fools" from having strong reputations upon which to build lasting relationships or lives. People get tired of negativity because it's so draining. It's hard to be around people who point out others' faults. Gossip lacks positive energy that maintains relationships. That positive energy is love. Good relationships are based on love. Love appreciates the good. It's simply not loving to gossip.

What are the effects of gossip?
Gossip hurts everyone involved -- the "subjects" of gossip and the "gossipers." Here's Chloe's story of how gossip really hurt her: "In the sixth grade, I had two best friends. We were very popular in our class and thought we were better than everyone else. Fortunately that's not how I am now because I definitely learned from my mistakes. We gossiped all the time, even behind each other's backs. On a camping trip, my two best friends began ignoring me and saying ugly things about me behind my back that weren't true. This hurt my feelings, so I talked to them about it, and they agreed to include me if I tried not to be so 'annoying' at times. When it was time to go home, I didn't get a seat at the back of the bus with my friends. So I had to sit at the front with those I thought at the time were 'geeks,' although they really weren't. For about a month after that, my friends ignored and excluded me. They even put a 'loser' sign in my desk drawer, which made me very upset. I knew they gossiped about me behind my back, and I did the same to them. It was hard. I had to make an entire new group of friends and build up my self-confidence. Finally, they wrote me an apology card asking me to be friends again. Fortunately, we have grown out of that phase and are friends again, but at the time, I felt like the gossip nearly ruined my life. We never gossip about anyone anymore."

But talking about people seems so natural. When does it become gossip?
There's absolutely nothing wrong with talking about people -- if we are talking about what's good about them. That's being a true and kind "witness" to others' lives. Gossip, though, spreads negative images and often sensitive or private information. Although we may feel that joining in the talk about others -- their mistakes or blunders, relationship details, academic or career failures -- is harmless, it really isn't. Words are incredibly powerful and can be used as weapons to harm or as medicine to heal. Proverbs clearly outlines the difference between emphasizing the good in others and highlighting the bad:

A wholesome tongue is a tree of life: but perverseness therein is a breach in the spirit. (Prov. 15:4)

Kind words heal and help;
     cutting words wound and maim. (The Message, Prov. 15:4)

How do we get out of the "maiming" business and into the "healing" business?
Matthew's healing idea is, "Take the weight off your back. Wipe your window clean. Understand God's perfection and look through God's immortal eyes to see the perfection in everything. Search for the idea that will help you the most, and find the Truth. Actions spring from thought, and the better your thought, the better your actions."

So where do we search for "Truth"?
Christina reminds us, "We can always turn to the Bible. Even though it was written so far in the past, the people in the stories had many of the exact same problems we do today. We are sure to find something to help us solve our problems and decide what to do in our everyday situations."

So let's turn to the Bible to see how to remove gossip and heal:
First of all, we have to stop ourselves from gossiping:

For he that will love life, and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips that they speak no guile: Let him eschew evil, and do good; let him seek peace, and ensue it. (KJV I Pet. 3:10, 11)

We don't want to be the reason why someone else has problems:

Let us not therefore judge one another any more: but judge this rather, that no man put a stumbling block or an occasion to fall in his brother's way. (Rom. 14:13)

If others gossip about us, we must take the high road:

No retaliation. No sharp-tongued sarcasm. Instead, bless--that's your job, to bless. (The Message, I Pet. 3:10, 11).

We also need to tell our friends or acquaintances who gossip to stop gossiping. If it seems awkward to tell them outright, we may start pointing out the good in the people about whom they're talking. Or, we could point out that rumors aren't truthful. Our kindness will usually make others more kind.

But if our friends still continue to gossip, we may need to stop hanging around them. We may lose friends, but those who gossip aren't behaving like quality individuals. We are told in the Bible:

Don't link up with a wicked person and give corrupt testimony.
Don't go along with the crowd in doing evil. (The Message, Ex. 23:2, 3).

We also need to tell our friends or acquaintances who gossip to stop gossiping. If it seems awkward to tell them outright, we may start pointing out the good in the people about whom they're talking. Or, we could point out that rumors aren't truthful. Our kindness will usually make others more kind.

But if our friends still continue to gossip, we may need to stop hanging around them. We may lose friends, but those who gossip aren't behaving like quality individuals. We are told in the Bible:

Don't link up with a wicked person and give corrupt testimony.
Don't go along with the crowd in doing evil. (The Message, Ex. 23:2, 3).

We are rewarded for helping to maintain a healing atmosphere. The love we give others surrounds us, too. We find true happiness which cannot be taken away from us. In addition, we are blessed by being able to live with God:

Lord, who shall abide in thy tabernacle? Who shall dwell in thy holy hill? He that walketh uprightly, and worketh righteousness, and speaketh the truth in his heart. He that backbiteth not with his tongue, nor doeth evil to his neighbour, nor taketh up a reproach against his neighbour. (KJV Ps. 15:1-3)

We have been given a gift -- the gift to live with God. But that gift requires some work on our part. Let's make sure that we do our work -- that we speak only the truth about others, that we stop others from gossiping, and that we speak only words that bring peace and healing.

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