I had a bigger problem with gossiping when I was younger. I suppose, like many young girls, I thought that was what conversation was…gossip! What else was there to talk about other than other people, right?
Well, obviously gossip is not godly. In fact, the Bible teaches us to let all of our conversation be seasoned with grace (Colossians 4:6) instead of juicy morsels of gossip. It also instructs us to put away slanderous speech (Ephesians 4:31 & Proverbs 4:24) which wounds and even kills other people’s reputations and character.
But when you find yourself in the middle of a conversation that suddenly (and seemingly innocently) turns toward discussing the happenings, choices, appearance, or actions of another person outside of your discussion circle, how do you keep from giving into the urge to listen to, much less add to, the idle talk? It isn’t easy is it?
While most of us probably know better than to gossip, we often justify our discussions of other people, saying we’re sharing prayer requests or at least genuine concern. But it doesn’t take long for a conscientious person to develop a sour taste in her mouth as the conversation goes further and further south. Unfortunately, by then it’s too late. We’ve become a gossip!
A number of years ago, as I began a new relationship with a dear friend, we determined from the very start we would not gossip. And, to be quite honest, that wasn’t that hard in the beginning. We found plenty of other things to talk about in the initial stages of our relationship as we focused on getting to know one another. But as time went on, we also found plenty to gossip about. So even today we have to intentionally work to keep gossip out of our conversation. How do we resist the urge to gossip? It’s not easy and we’re not always successful, but here are a few tips we’ve found to work for us.
How to resist the urge to…gossip.
First of all, meditate on and memorize Ephesians 4:29:
I love it that Paul subtly reminds us at the end of the verse that there are more people who hear what we say than just the one or two we may have been speaking to. After all, gossip, by definition, gets around!
Next, as you meditate on this biblical instruction, pray something like this:
Lord, I want the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart to be pleasing to You at all times (Psalm 19:14). Your Word instructs me to stay clear of talking about other people. In fact, you call a person who participates in such talk a busybody! I don’t want to be a busybody. I have no right to make judgments about other people or even to express my opinions about them in their absence. Instead I want to be busy sharing Your grace and love with others. Help me remember that even that which I say in innocence may easily be misunderstood by those who hear me or those who hear of what I have said. Therefore, it is so important that I bridle my mouth and speak only that which will hold up to Your high standards at all times. Help me to stay away from idle chatter about other people, slander, and gossip.
Finally, here are a few practical suggestions founded on biblical principles:
- Choose carefully those with whom you enter into conversation. There are some people (gossips, slanderers, busybodies, etc.) we just need to steer clear of. And when we do need to talk with them, we need to keep tight reigns on the conversation. Be aware! (Proverbs 14:7)
- Keep a humble and gracious attitude toward other people. It is often out of arrogance and self-righteousness that we talk about other people. If we keep our hearts clean of these maladies we’ll be less susceptible to gossip and slander. (Psalm 94:4)
- Talk to your friends about making a covenant to stay away from gossip. Come on, be a brave and good friend! Such a request may feel awkward coming out of your mouth at first, but the more you choose to keep your friendships on holy ground, the easier it will become to espouse such standards.
- Nip it in the bud! As soon as you realize your conversation has taken a dangerous turn in the direction of gossip, steer it another way. If others in the circle resist, politely excuse yourself.
- Ask God to give you a disdain for gossip. I honestly believe God can give us an inner disgust for talk which does not honor Him. Like garbage in the mouth, gossip can become distasteful on our lips. (Psalm 52:4)
- Spend time listening to and reading God’s words. We tend to take on the speech patterns of those to whom we listen 🙂 (Psalm 119:147)