Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Women and Gossip

Picture from Corbis

The mouth of a woman can get her into so much trouble and how easy it seems that we can justify gossip by just 'sharing' our 'issue' with one woman to another woman. This is especially true when we feel "hurt" or "misunderstood" by another woman and we "feel like we just need to share it" with another woman and we do so in the guise of 'being a friend' or a 'prayer request.'

How easily we gossip and slander others - whether on the phone, face to face or in emails - all in the name of "a prayer request" or sharing a hurt or concern.

The words we use and how we use them reveals our character. The words we listen to also reveals our character.

Gossip? Leaky lips?
The Bible is full of wisdom and the instruction and we need to learn the importance of choosing the right words we speak and those we listen to.

Proverbs 13:3 (Be careful little lips what you say...) "He who guards his mouth preserves his life and the one who opens wide his lips comes to ruin." Proverbs 18:8 (Be careful little ears what you hear...) "The words of a gossip are like choice morsels; they go down to a man's inmost parts."

Gossip is simply unfair! These words go into the listener’s ear and affect the soul at a deep level. My husband says that listening to gossip is like eating candy-coated devil vomit. Gross! Nevertheless, true.

Actually, the gossiper has done the digesting and regurgitation of the enemy's destructive lies or twisted truths, and put them in a nice juicy morsel for the hearer. My husband also says that the reason a person is tempted to listen to gossip due to his or her own insecurity. They want to “be in the know.” They have a belief that it puts them in the “control” seat of power. They become the “go to” person if someone else has a “beef” about another person, then they go to the “go to” person, whom they know will listen.

We have had that happen.
Someone will have a “beef” with Michael or I (my husband is a pastor at a local congregation) and they do not have the courage to come directly and biblically – one – on – one to us. Instead, they go to another person who they think will be a “listening” ear about their problem. Sure enough the “go to” person does listen and what happens is, that in time, this “go to” person is ‘bit’ by the frustration of the coward.

Being pastors, we have seen it happen repeatedly. Eventually the “go to” person, who does not direct the “frustrated” person in the right direction, ends up becoming frustrated themselves. This kind of relating (which is unbiblical and sinful) is just plain wrong. It’s divisive and it hurts the body of Christ.

I think gossip - especially among women - is one of the reasons the "church" is weak today.

A person will rationalize listening to gossip in one of these ways:
they want to be "in the know" so that they can be in control.

2) THE "REJOICE IN OTHER'S FAULTS" FREAK: they only feel good about themselves when they hear about the faults and sins of others (love does not rejoice in iniquity - 1 Cor. 13).

3) THE RESCUER: they must hear the whole story so that they can be the one to have the answer and make everything right. In this way, they feel good about themselves that they have really ‘helped.’All these motivations are out of insecurity, and, the worst thing about listening to gossip is that we rob the brother or sister (who is gossiping) of the opportunity to go "one on one FIRST" (like Jesus says in Matthew 18:15-20).

If we were concerned and if we really cared about the one whom is gossiping; rather than listening to them, we would stop them and encourage obedience to Jesus' instruction in Matt. 18:15-20. That is, of course, if we are caring for them and not using them out of our own insecurities.

Most listeners of gossip fall into the RESCUER mentality. Though Jesus said, "Blessed are the peacemakers," He did not want us to be peacemakers in a situation where He is instructing us to point that person to follow His instruction in Matt. 18:15-20.

FOR ALL US SPEAKERS OF GOSSIP and idle words here is Watchman Nee’s definition: "Idle words are superfluous words, irrelevant words, unnecessary words, or words of rumor which cause dispute. May we see the seriousness of idle words as well as slanderous words?"

If a believer is unaware of the pride, rebellion, jealousy, insecurity, and fear of man that is stirring within their heart - chances are it will leak out the lips. This is true if that person thinks he or she is not susceptible to these sins and does not have a strategy to deal with them when they do arise.

Jesus speaks of these things within our hearts in Mark 7:20-23 (yes, even our redeemed hearts ... we're not glorified -- yet), and in Matthew 12:34b, He says that out of the heart the mouth speaks. In verse 36, He says that we will give an account for every idle word. Paul's exhortation to not gossip is mainly to women. Men are not immune to this. (1 Timothy 5: 11-16).

The fact that Paul, when giving qualifications for leadership, addresses the women (and not the men) when it comes to gossip and slander ought to say something to us. Older women (Titus 2:3) are exhorted to be reverent in the way they live - they are not to be slanderers.

Where's your heart in this?
Do you gossip? Do you put gossip in the form of a prayer request? Do you talk about people behind their back? What do you "pass on" in the name of "concern" that ought not to be passed on?

Gossip is a destructive means to destroy the body of Christ.

Here’s a definition of gossip: "rumor or sensational talking about intimate events." Slander means: "oral defamation -- the speaking of false and malicious words that injure another person’s reputation, business, or property rights."

Here's the gossip test - regarding the words that proceed from my lips:
1.Does it edify?
2.Do I have permission to share what I know?
3.Is it necessary to speak about this?
4.Will someone be hurt by it?
5.Will it glorify God?
6. Would I say this if the person I am talking about is present? 7. Would I say what I am about to say if the person I was speaking about was standing right next to me?

When should I suspect a person gossiping?
1. Is this "talk" about someone who is not there?

2. Does it sound like this person has avoided the Matt. 18:15-20 step of going one on one-first? Am I ready to stop them and ask if they have discussed this first with the person of whom they are speaking?

3. Did they have permission to tell me what they are telling me?

4. Would this person be saying this if that person (of whom they were speaking) there?

What to do if someone gossips to you: Stop him or her before they give details and ask them,
1. "Do you have permission (from this person of whom you're speaking) to tell you what they are about to share?”

2. "Did you speak directly to ________ first? (And if they did…) "What was their response?"

At this point, if things were done appropriately (according to Matthew 18:15-20), and the person didn't listen, and it was determined that there is a real offense/sin involved, you will need to be willing to go with that person and follow through on Jesus' instruction in the Matthew passage.

The mouth is the hardest to control, and our character is revealed by our words. Our submission to authority is revealed by our words. It is easy to tell a woman who has issues with authority. Listen to her words, observe her facial expressions, and check out her attitude.

Watchman Nee writes in his book Spiritual Authority, "Were one submissive to authority he would surely control his mouth; he would dare speak so loosely." A person who is loose with their words probably does not have much of ‘the fear of the Lord’ worked in their heart. If there is a problem with God's authority in their life, they will have problems with God's delegated authorities.

“Don’t let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths but only what builds up one another.”

What destroys the church and relationships more than anything else is gossip. Gossip is when you are not part of the problem and you are not part of the solution. You just talk about it or listen to it. When you listen to or speak about (share information) a problem/person, you are not part of the problem and/ or part of the solution (if it does not have anything to do with you), and you talk about it, you are gossiping. Gossip is serious (2 Timothy 3:3). The Bible calls this sin.

Gossip is a divisive action. God makes it clear that it must not be tolerated but instead confronted (Titus 3:10). The fellowship of the church family is more important than an individual’s feelings getting hurt over being confronted of a sin.

In Rick Warren’s, Purpose Driven Life (page 164-165), he writes,
“Listening to gossip is like accepting stolen property, and it makes you just as guilty of the crime. People who gossip to you will also gossip about you. They cannot be trusted. If you listen to gossip, God says you are a troublemaker. The Bible says these kinds of troublemakers should be avoided. A gossip reveals secrets; therefore do not associate with a babbler. Proverbs 20:19 The fastest way to end a church or small group conflict is to lovingly confront those who are gossiping and insist they stop it.”

When you hear something about somebody in the church (this applies to the workplace or school too) or something that “church leadership” has done what should you do? You should go directly to that person and talk to them. Don’t go talking to anybody else about somebody else. You can also call one of the pastors or elders and say, “Pastor, I’ve just heard_____, what’s the scoop here?” A wise pastor/ leader will say, “If we don’t know, we’ll help you find out.” A wise leader will take the opportunity to teach you about how to not receive information that doesn’t have to do with you. Rumor mills must not start.

In light of going directly to that person or one of the pastors, this is how you can respond to the person passing on the information. When you hear something that is not about you, respond by saying:
1. Does “Gertrude” know you are telling me this? If not, then why are you telling me this? Let’s call “Gertrude” right now and get this straight.” (And follow through. A good rule of thumb is to follow through within 24 hours.)…. OR

2. What does this have to do with me? Let’s call one of the pastors or the person being talked about right now and get this straight.” (And follow through. A good rule of thumb is to follow through within 24 hours.)…. OR

3. This doesn’t sound like it’s my business, and I don’t think it’s yours either, so let’s call one of the pastors --- or the person being talked about ----- right now so we can get this cleared up.” A good rule of thumb is to follow through within 24 hours…. OR

4. Who gave you authority to be talking about this problem? Let’s call one of the pastors right now and get clarity on this. A good rule of thumb is to follow through within 24 hours.)…. OR

5. How are you part of this problem and its solution? Let’s call one of our pastors and get clarity on this.”

How to detect gossip in yourself?
Ask yourself these four questions when you are tempted to share information concerning another person. Your answer will indicate whether or not you are gossiping or slandering.

1. Why am I saying this? Is my real motive to criticize? Am I really out to help the person whom I am speaking about or is my goal to hurt them? Prayer requests are often under the guise of gossip and slander. Do not pass on a prayer request without the person knowing about it and giving you permission.

2. Is it possible that there is another side to this story? Webster defines gossip as “spreading rumors.” A rumor is an unauthenticated story. If your story is unauthenticated, then it is gossip. If you tell more than you know – watch out.

3. Would I feel comfortable saying this to Jesus? How delighted is Jesus in me when I pass on negative information about another person? On the other hand, would I say what I am saying now in the presence of the person whom it is about?

4. Am I building up the person I am speaking about by sharing this? Charles Spurgeon once said that gossip “emits a threefold poison; it injures the teller, the hearer, and the person concerning whom the tale is told.” Read Ephesians 4:29.

Remember that gossiping tongues have to have gossiping ears. So, may all of us be reminded to place a guard over our lips. May we not be known as foolish women who malign God’s Word.

How have you dealt with gossip?

Stumble Upon Toolbar


Mrs. Querido said...

We just went through our church membership class and they had a whole section on gossip. I was impressed and learned a lot! Gossip is soooo easy to slip into, so we have to guard our mouths against it. Thanks for the reminder :)

Beth Ann said...

WOW...you opened my eyes to this. There is always gossip around the lunch table at my work, and since my building is away from everyone, I always feel left out of the loop. I never know what is going on. Now I realize I am better off not knowing, and not allowing someone to gossip to me, or me get caught up in gossip itself! Thank you!

RefreshMom said...

Oh how I wish I could do a broadcast email of this one! We have been enduring a summer of extreme stress that all began with a bit of gossip. I pray that as the Lord brings us through this, we'll have the opportunity to root it out and begin to see some change.

Having been hurt by gossip in ministry in the past, I (hope that I) am very careful about not contributing to the epidemic.

(Why is it that gossip seems more rampant in ministry than in any other place outside of middle school?)

Thanks for an insightful post. (Maybe Leadership magazine or something of the sort would be interested in it?)

Faith said...

This is such a vital teaching for any christian, women AND men. Following the principles in Matthew 18 is so important to having healthy relationships with others and with those in authority. This topic is my soap box having experienced some problems with gossip in ministry as well. While I never want to experience the ramifications of destructive gossip again, I am thankful for going through the situations because it taught me what gossip is and how many times I didn't realize I was engaging in gossip as well. God used those situations to show me that I need to be cautious and thoughtful with the words I speak. And even after I feel like I have "learned my lesson", God has allowed situations into my life to remind me that it is still an area to work on and continually be aware of. For example, this past fall I was at a wedding, when I shared with someone that a certain person had given me a nasty look. As I shared that "choice morsel", the person who I was speaking of appeared to overhear. It was like God dinging a big bell in my ears. "Faith, you shouldn't have said that!! You need to speak to that person and not someone else about it." I wish I could say I dealt with it right away, but it took a couple of months of trying to ignore the fact that I had said something I shouldn't have before I looked up that person, called, explained the situation, and apologized for my loose tongue and not talking to them about it. Hopefully that is a lesson learned for good now.

Thanks Lylah for writing about this.

BarbaraLee said...

B/c of this I feel our clergy are afraid or back against the wall to speack the truth of God. It is sad b/c we need to know what is expected of us from God. I feel deprived.

6HappyHearts said...

Does God use you in women's lives or what sister?!?
When can you come speak to the women at my church, in my community?!?
Love this post! Do I have your permission to re-post? I just had a post on Relational Aggression & this goes right along.
Thank you for the questions to ask yourself! Satan so wants us caught up in this nasty business.

Lylah said...

Hey 6 happy hearts...nice to see you :-)

please feel free to use it..and as God opens doors, i always like to talk with women ;-)

Conservative Homeschooler said...

I hope you don't mind, but would love to re-post this in a group of mine called the "Conservative Homeschooler" at http://conservativehomeschooler.ning.com; It sounds something that as women, as Christians and as people, we need to remember for the tongue is a dangerous tool that can hurt more than the sword.

Lylah Ledner said...

i'm honored to have this reposted :-)