I listened to a great podcast the other day featuring Scott Sauls of Christ Presbyterian Church in Nashville, about his new book, Irresistible Faith.
One thing he said really stuck out to me: that gossip is a form of pornography, because when you gossip you are essentially “undressing” a person, exposing things about them which are intimate, vulnerable and private — in order to get a cheap thrill out of them, and to gratify yourself by feasting upon them in your mind.
Scott went on to say, that when we gossip, we are objectifying a person — turning them into a thing in order to gratify yourself at their expense, without making a commitment to them.
I think Scott is right. But that brings up a few other questions which people often ask when it comes to gossip:
What Constitutes Gossip?
Since many of our personal experiences involve other people, it would be really hard to say anything without talking about somebody else. How do we differentiate between healthy forms of mentioning or talking about other people, and unhealthy forms, which constitute gossip? What exactly is gossip?
One dictionary defines it as: “Unconstrained conversation or reports about other people.”
The word “unconstrained” is key.
Another definition is: “The sharing of sensational facts about other people.”
The word “sensational” is key here, because it shows a motivation: the key is to titillate, to impress, to entertain. The problem is, it is done at someone else’s expense.
Hurting Rather than Helping
Looking at Bible verses which talk about gossip (e.g. 2 Corinthians 12:20, 1 Timothy 5:13), gossip clearly is linked to slander, thus it comes from a negative spirit bent on hurting rather than helping.
None of Your Business
Gossip is excessive interest in someone else’s affairs, for the purpose of entertainment. Paul calls it being a “busybody” (1 Timothy 5:13), i.e. someone who is involved in something which is none of their business.
Why is Gossip Wrong?
Besides the self-gratifying nature of it, what is so bad about gossip?
1. Gossip is Divisive
A perverse person stirs up conflict, and a gossip separates close friends. (Proverbs 16:28)
2. Gossip is Poisonous
All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and sea creatures are being tamed and have been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. (James 3:7-8)
Many times I have observed people’s minds being poisoned in regard to how they think about another person because of gossip.
3. We Will Have to Answer to God for How We Use Our Words
“But I tell you that everyone will have to give account on the day of judgment for every empty word they have spoken.” – Jesus (Matthew 12:36)
Some Guidelines for Talking About Others
1. Use Words that Build Up, Rather than Tear Down
One of the reasons people tear others down with their words is because they feel that by making other people look bad, it makes them look good in comparison. In fact the opposite is true: when we speak poorly of someone, it makes us look bad, even if we are too foolish to realize it.
‘Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.’ (Ephesians 4:29)
Therefore encourage one another and build each other up (1 Thessalonians 5:11)
2. Let Your Speech be Motivated by Love for the Other Person
People often talk about their children, but they almost never gossip about their children. Why? Because people love their children, and love protects rather than exploits someone’s weaknesses and vulnerabilities.
‘The lips of the righteous nourish many, but fools die for lack of sense. The tongue of the righteous is choice silver, but the heart of the wicked is of little value. ‘ (Proverbs 10:20-21)