As I sit here with tears stinging my brown eyes, I‘m once again reminded of the damage that can be done with our lips.
Long story short, a dear friend recently stopped speaking to me but said some extremely hurtful things to mutual friends behind my back. Have you ever been in a similar scenario? If so, you know that hurtful words can often wound more deeply than a physical laceration. You see, words carry power. They can heal and encourage or have the ability to destroy a life or reputation. There is a proverb that says, “The power of life and death is in the tongue,” so our words, especially about others, should not be taken lightly. Why, then, does talking about others' shortcomings feel so good? Why is reading and sharing juicy news so tempting and dare I say, addictive?
“The power of life and death is in the tongue,”
I know personally, the more I talk about the faults and flaws of another with a friend, the more it becomes a topic of conversation each time we get together. I admit this and write about this topic, not out of a place of lofty superiority or mastery over my tongue, but out of a place of humility and fresh familiarity, wanting to fight against this vicious, provocative and sneaky little beast known as gossip, right along with you.
Why is gossip so tempting?
I don’t know about you, but when I’m around people who start whispering, my ears instantly perk up, and my curiosity piques. There is just something about knowing or having information that other people want that is alluring and offers a sense of power and significance to both the speaker and hearer. When we hear of or share about others’ imperfections and shortcomings, it can make us feel better about our flaws and failings.
It can also give us a false sense of justification in anger and unforgiveness. We can preface gossip with cute little phrases like, “Bless her heart,” or “ I love her, but…” followed by some defaming statement or story, but no matter how we dress it up, gossip can do some pretty ugly damage. A good rule of thumb to know whether you are gossiping or not is to ask yourself the question, “Would I be ashamed to say this in his or her presence?”
Why is gossip so harmful?
Nothing destroys trust and relationships faster than gossip. It not only tarnishes the character and reputation of the one being talked about, but it also can damage the trustworthiness of the one gossiping. If you gossip about others, people will assume you probably talk about them too when they’re not around. As Frank A. Clark said, “Gossip needn’t be false to be evil - there’s a lot of truth that shouldn’t be passed around.” Just like a spark can set a whole forest on fire, a few careless words, true or untrue, can ruin a job, marriage, or family, or a life.
Gossip needn’t be false to be evil - there’s a lot of truth that shouldn’t be passed around.
Practical Steps to Stopping Gossip:
To stop gossip, we have to exercise self-control by taming our tongues. This generally goes against everything our flesh is inclined to do, but we can save ourselves and others a lot of heartache by learning to stop gossip in its tracks. Here are some practical steps I have found are helpful:
- Agree with friends to hold each other accountable in not letting gossip creep into discussions.
- If casual conversing turns to slander, call it out or change the subject quickly.
- Exit a conversation or politely excuse yourself if gossip rears its ugly head.
- You have the power to control what you listen to, watch or read, so try to avoid hearsay and idle rumors.
- If you are wronged or gossiped about, instead of first talking with others about the situation, try to speak directly to the person who hurt or offended you, if at all possible.
What comes out of our mouths is a reflection of our hearts, and we can actively choose what we think, speak and dwell on.
What comes out of our mouths is a reflection of our hearts, and we can actively choose what we think, speak and dwell on. Instead of belittling others and focusing on their flaws, let’s decide to stop the cycle of gossip and try to (as hard as it may be) forgive and find the good in people and situations. Words can do significant damage, but they can also be used to create a ripple effect of kindness in this hurting world, and it all begins with our lips.