Gossip; Casual or unconstrained conversation or reports about other people, typically involving details which are not confirmed as true.
Have you ever been accused of gossip? Ever had your words taken out of context and spread as gossip? Have you ever accused someone of gossiping or of saying something that didn’t sit right with you? The truth is words can build or destroy relationships. Accusations of gossip can end relationships before they are given the chance to start, and this is why it is paramount that we learn how to deal with gossip from the root; with grace, truth and a truckload of wisdom.
I set up a poll tweet to see the general consensual response to the question below.
Someone accuses you of gossip. They tell you what you supposedly said but not who shared the information. Should they tell you who the person is?
The results were clear; 80% said yes, 20% said no.
I’m with the ‘yes’ side of the poll and I’ll explain why, whilst appreciating the stance of those that said ‘no’.
My issue with them not sharing who the person is – is that a lack of transparency perpetuates the gossip. How can you truly deal with gossip from the root without knowing the root (the source of the information)? If you are not prepared to name the person who told you or what they told you then what is the use in confronting the supposed gossipper?
Withholding that key piece of information makes it clear that your intentions are not to bring resolution they are merely to let the person know, that you know what you ‘think‘ they have said about you. You gain clarity at the expense of theirs. How can they ensure that their words are not transformed into gossip if you do not gracefully reveal your source? Context is everything. Letting them know who the source is can reveal the intention and motive behind what was supposedly said. You may think that withholding that information is ‘saving’ a relationship, when the real damage is that you have allowed distrust and paranoia to take root in that person’s life – in their relationships.
On the other hand (for the ‘no’ argument), you have to pick your battles. Know what accusations to firm, and know what accusations to fight. My mentor said to me, ‘your reputation is your currency and you are to protect your reputation at all costs. Perhaps in instances where you are accused of gossip and the person is not forthcoming about the source, the only option is to surrender your pride and genuinely apologise for any harm or offence caused. It’s easier said than done, because no one likes to be accused or misquoted! But pray that, when you want to respond out of pride with a dissertation, the Holy Spirit will tell you to ‘shhhhhhh’ (advice from my little sister lool).
A few points and pratical tips:
- Confrontation coupled with transparency can bring healing to a relationship on it’s last leg. Confrontation void of transparency and wisdom is a death sentence to any relationship. You can do more damage than the gossip if your approach lacks wisdom.
- If you need wisdom, ask God (James 1:5) and on a practical note consider having a mediator; who will listen in, be objective and facilitate reconciliation.
- If you hear gossip that you are the subject of, do not allow it to linger for too long (I won’t set a time frame, but personally I can’t let something linger for more than a month) before confronting the situation or person(s). There is nothing more unwise than accusing someone of what they supposedly said a year ago. There is strength in being intentional and immediate with these things.
- If you are going to accuse someone of gossip, leave out the ‘christianese’ jargon to make it seem like God is backing your subtle ‘shade’. Just be straight, frank and honest about what was said, who said it and how it made you feel.
- If you are accused of gossip, don’t rush to defend yourself. Hear the person out, ask for the source and issue a disclaimer that you will approach the source to bring about a sustained resolution.
- If you have actually gossiped about someone and they confront you…do not lie. Admit to it, sincerely apologise and ask for forgiveness (saying sorry and asking for forgiveness are not the same thing…but that is a whole new blog post).
Finally, I’ll end with some psychology. I taught my psychology students about disputing irrational thoughts today and so I propose that there are three ways to dispute gossip psychologically and one way biblically:
- Logical disputing – ‘is the gossip logical, does it make sense?’
- Empirical disputing – ‘is there any evidence that this gossip is true?’
- Pragmatic disputing – ‘is it practical for me to indulge in what was supposedly said about me or what I apparently said?’
- Biblical disputing – ‘is this what God’s word says about me as His masterpiece?’
If your answer to any of those questions is a resounding NO, then you can put that gossip in the trash where it belongs.