Patti Armstrong is an award-winning author and was the managing editor and co-author of Ascension Press’ bestselling Amazing Grace series. Her latest books are: Big Hearted: Inspiring Stories From Everyday Families and Dear God, You Can’t Be Serious. She has a B.A. in social work and an M.A. in public administration and worked in both those fields before staying home to work as a freelance writer. Patti and her husband live in North Dakota, where they are still raising the tail end of their 10 children.
No one wants to be known as a gossip, yet who among us has never gossiped? It’s tempting. It is so tempting in fact, that we can convince ourselves that we were not really gossiping.
Take the gossip test below to determine if you qualify as a gossip. If you answer yes to any of the 10 statements below, you have gossiped. Then read on for powerful reasons never to do it again.
- As long as it’s true, it’s okay to repeat.
- I needed to vent.
- I told only one person.
- I told people just to ask for prayers for his sorry soul.
- I accidentally slipped so I was not intentionally gossiping.
- I went a whole week without telling anyone, then had to tell just one person.
- I told someone in confidence and made them promise never to repeat it.
- I needed advice on how I should handle it.
- If she is going to act that way, then she deserves it.
- I’m praying for him now, so it’s all good.
Unless there is a serious need to know, it’s the sin of detraction to share something bad about another. For instance, if you have a friend about to do business with someone who has a long history of swindling people, that might be important information to share for the good of another. But telling a friend about an acquaintance’s spouse having an affair, it’s not your job to spread that.
People are social creatures so communication with one another is instinctive and having big news to share can be fun or being appalled about someone’s behavior can incite us to vent. But when it’s hurting another person’s reputation, then we are guilty of sin.
Here are 7 good reasons never to gossip again:
1. To hurt someone through talking about them behind their back, you have to strike Jesus first. “Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of mine, even the least of them, you did it to me.” —Matthews 25:40
2. In order for you to gossip, you have to hold a negative memory and share it with another person. Negative thoughts in your brain causes release of cortisol, the stress hormone, into your blood. This weakens your immune system and inhibits the actions of your white blood cells which increases the chances for infection and even promotes weight gain-- all from negative thinking you spread through gossiping.
3. What goes around comes around. In Matthew 7:12, Jesus told us to do unto others as we would have them do unto us. He also warned us: in Luke 6:38 that, “The measure with which you measure will be measured back to you.”
4. Gossiping gives you a bad reputation. Have you ever heard someone described as a big gossip? That realization makes them unattractive to other as untrustworthy and mean-spirited. Consider the opposite: a trustworthy person who speaks kindly of others. Choose the image you want.
5. What you say about others is more of an indication of who you are than who they are. Some people speak kindly and compliment others while others seem never to be at a loss for a criticism of others. What you say about others is a reflection of who you are.
6. Risk of Embarrassment. Once you’ve said something, you cannot 100 percent trust that it will not be repeated and get back to the person that you were gossiping about. If you would not say something in front of them, then don’t say it behind their backs.
7. It’s a sin. It comes under the Fifth Commandment, “Thou Shalt Not Kill,” because it kills the reputation of another.
The choice is ours. We can criticize or spread scandal about others and have our moment of venting or attention, or we can refrain for the sake of God, neighbor and our own souls.
To go one step further, rather than gossiping about a person, we can pray for them. Our hearts will grow in love and kindness and our souls will grow in holiness. Compare that with ruining our reputation, sinning and hurting others. It should be no contest.