Close your eyes and picture a gossip. Whom do you see? I see a cluster of spinsters in old lace gloves sweetly spitting vitriol over tea. Perhaps I read too much Agatha Christie. But even if you don’t have visions of British spinsters, your vision is most likely female. Am I right? Counter to our preconceived notions, in my (unfortunate) experience there are just as many male gossips as female gossips.
The men, however, don’t have the benefit that us ladies do of hearing much direct exhortation against gossip. Can you imagine a men’s retreat in which this was the lineup?
- 9:00 a.m.: Becoming a Man After God’s Heart
- 10:30 a.m.: Strength Like Boaz
- 12:00 p.m.: Drum Beating (I assume this is what you do at any good men’s retreat)
- 1:30 p.m.: Taming Your Gossiping Tongue
Despite our feminine visions of the gossip, the Scriptures are directed as much at the male gossip (let’s call him Carl) as at the female (let’s call her Sheila), such as this passage in Proverbs:
“There are six things the Lord hates, seven that are detestable to him…[the seventh] a man who stirs up dissension among brothers.” (Proverbs 6:16, 19)
It’s easy to be taken off guard by Carl. Sheila gives you cues. She’ll move closer, lower her voice conspiratorially, and begin, “I love Sasha, but…” And that’s when you know it’s coming. But Carl gives you no such preparatory warnings. In a firm and perfectly audible voice, he can casually defame another’s character (or gossip, if you will).
In my limited experience, that’s Carl’s struggle. He doesn’t dish with you about situational gossip. (“Did you see how tight her pants were today?”) He goes for the character. (“Neal is a real micro-manager.” “Jessica is such a control freak.” “Patrick doesn’t take anyone’s ideas seriously but his own.”)
And it doesn’t only happen in the workplace. It can happen in ministry too, disguised as well-meaning concern. (“You know, Allan is a real nice guy, but I just feel like he really lacks discipline.”) And even in the home. (Enter any number of dinner table discussions between a man and his wife in the hearing of the children.)
Sometimes one legitimately needs to address a character issue and seek the counsel of another regarding it. But much of the time our so-called “venting” is just good ol’ fashioned down-home gossip. (Even when said in a deep and manly voice.)
Satan was the first gossip. (“Did God really say?”) And the effect gossip has today is the same as this first utterance of gossip: It drags others down with you. Cheery Chip (perhaps like Eve) might have been going on his merry way thinking cheerful thoughts, when Carl corners him and plants a different strain in his mind, maybe noting an annoyance with a friend. “Jim is really getting on my nerves. He can really be self serving sometimes.” Continue Reading…