Gossip and slander
Gossip: I ruin without killing. I tear down homes. I break hearts and wreck lives. You will find me in the pews of the pious as well as in the haunts of the unholy. I gather strength with age. I have made my way where greed, distrust, and dishonour are unknown; yet my victims are as numerous as the sands of the sea, and often as innocent.
My name is gossip.
Gossiping is bad news but sadly we have all done it from time to time, sometimes without even thinking. Women are shockers when it comes to gossip, just gather a group of women together over lunch and it doesn't take long before everyone is gossiping about someone else. For that reason there are many very strong advice in the Bible spelling out the dangers of gossiping and it isn't pretty or flattering.
Gossiping is not new, its been around forever and sadly, we haven't yet learnt not to do it. In Titus 2 verse 3, older women are told to teach younger women to "not slander" as it is an considered unbecoming of a godly woman and therefore a big no-no. You don't want to be seen in the company of gossipers or be identified as being a gossiper. One of the reasons why Paul wanted women at home being productive because many at that time were out and about mingling together in the market places (just as they do today) — gossiping and not working.
The word slander is used many times in the Bible. And it has a frightening meaning! Slander comes from the word diabolos, meaning a malicious gossip, slander, or false accuser. This word is used 34 times in the New Testament as a title for Satan. It is also used to describe Judas, the disciple who betrayed Jesus and called "a devil" in John 6:70. And, besides these references, the word is used in Titus 2:3 and in 1 Timothy 3:11 in reference to women, literally meaning "she-devil" and "malicious talkers" (Elizabeth George: A women's guid to making right choices)
Elizabeth George in her book "A Women's Guide to Making Right Choices", has included a list of ways to avoid gossip and I think they are a useful reminder to all women:
1. Think the best of others: refuse to think the worse of them. Apply the guidelines from Philippians 4:8 to what you hear "Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things".
2. Agree with your friends not to gossip: Share with those closest to you about your desire to grow in this area.
3. Avoid settings that can lead to gossip: or at least be alert for them, including parties, showers, church meetings can also be a breeding ground for gossip, luncheons.
4. Avoid women who gossip: you know who they are and they seem to be skilful in drawing women into their gossip group.
5. Say nothing: if your mouth is closes it is hard to gossip. "It is better to be thought a fool than open your mouth and prove it".
6. Limit the amount of time on the telephone, Facebook etc: beware of endless chatter and you know where it can lead.
So how do we change our behaviour so we put a stop to gossiping:
(Thanks to Elizabeth George)
* Remember the source of the slander: satan
* Realise the cause of slander: hatred, envy, jealousy, evil heart
* Choose your company carefully: mix with the right people, isolate yourself for a time if necessary
* Choose your activities carefully: be careful about phone calls, mingling on social media etc
* Choose words of praise: be wise, kind, pleasant, sweet, constructive and instructive. Make your speech edify and minister grace to your hearers.
* Choose to pray: rather than talking about someone else, pray for them
* Choose to deal with gossip as sin
* Choose to leave the scene: when gossiping surfaces, walk away, leave the room, get some fresh air, pray for wisdom.
* Choose to speak up and declare your discomfort: something like this "I'm sorry. Maybe its just me, but I'm not comfortable with this conversation".
* Choose to be ready with a positive phrase or two
* Choose to use your tongue to glorify God
Below is just a handful of bible verses that remind us about the evil of gossiping and when struggling with gossip, these are worth re-visiting:
A perverse man sows strife, And a whisperer separates the best of friends. (Proverbs 16:28)
A talebearer reveals secrets, But he who is of a faithful spirit conceals a matter. (Proverbs 1:13)
The words of a talebearer are like tasty trifles, And they go down into the inmost body. (Proverbs 18:8)
An evildoer gives heed to false lips; A liar listens eagerly to a spiteful tongue. (Proverbs 17:4)
These six things the Lord hates, Yes, seven are an abomination to Him: A proud look, A lying tongue, Hands that shed innocent blood, A heart that devises wicked plans, Feet that are swift in running to evil, A false witness who speaks lies, And one who sows discord among brethren. (Proverbs 6:16-19)
He who goes about as a talebearer reveals secrets; Therefore do not associate with one who flatters with his lips. (Proverbs 20:19)
A talebearer reveals secrets, But he who is of a faithful spirit conceals a matter. (Proverbs 11:13)
In the multitude of words sin is not lacking, But he who restrains his lips is wise. (Proverbs 10:19)
Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers. (Ephesians 4:29)
Speak evil of no one, to be peaceable, gentle, showing all humility to all men. (Titus 3:2)
But I say to you that for every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment. (Matthew 12:36)
Keep your tongue from evil, And your lips from speaking deceit. (Psalm 43:13)
Whoever secretly slanders his neighbour, Him I will destroy; The one who has a haughty look and a proud heart, Him I will not endure. (Psalm 101:5)
Do not speak evil of one another, brethren. He who speaks evil of a brother and judges his brother, speaks evil of the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. (James 4:11)
That you also aspire to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business, and to work with your own hands, as we commanded you. (1 Thessalonians 4:11)
“You shall not bear false witness against your neighbour. (Exodus 20:16)