I always look forward to visiting with my husband’s uncle for the holidays. he tells the best stories Whether it’s a strange encounter on the subway or a failed recipe, his stories make me laugh painfully.
There is something about sharing stories that connects us with others. We talk to laugh together. We tell stories to help others get to know us. And tell stories to preserve history.
However, sitting and talking can be a little restless. What starts as a casual recount of an experience can turn into a critical review of someone’s motivations and actions. What starts as a laugh together can turn into a laugh at the expense of someone who isn’t there. There can be a fine line between storytelling and gossip. How do we know we or someone we’re listening to has crossed it?
What is gossip?
Gossip can be difficult to define properly. It takes many forms and has to do with not only what we say, but also what motivates us to say it. doing. . . give bad news about another person behind their back. ‘Gossip usually follows him in one of two categories. (1) sSpreading false information or rumors, or (2) sharing true information that portrays someone in a negative light.
There can be a fine line between storytelling and gossip.
Ephesians 4:29 says, “Let no corrupting speech come out of your mouth, but be good for the occasion, good for building up, to give grace to those who hear.” Don’t just tell the story,” he advises.
Gossip builds those who share it, but tears others apart. Gossip causes strife and divides those who hear it (Proverbs 16:28).
Why am I gossiping?
Gossip is usually motivated by self-love and self-promotion, says Robinson. So it is wise to examine not only the content of the story, but also your own heart. Even if the bad news is real, why would you want to share it?
- Are you trying to impress others with insider information?
- Are you trying to make yourself look better in comparison?
- Do you have any resentment or jealousy towards your partner?
- Am I just annoyed by the person?
It can be difficult to examine one’s mind carefully while sitting at a crowded kitchen table.
How can I avoid gossiping?
Our words fill our hearts (Matt. 12:34), so that we may repent and come before the Lord to love Him and give us a heart to love others more than ourselves. You should start by asking. For those who are tempted to gossip, we can pray that God will bless them and redeem them of their bad news. We can pray about our relationships and ask the Lord to keep our mouths open (Psalm 141:3).
I also found a 3-layer filter for my words that helps me avoid gossip. As you think of stories and information you want to share this Christmas, or as you reflect on what you’ve heard, you can ask the following questions.
Anyone who has played the phone game knows how much information can change as it passes from person to person. So just because you hear something from a reliable source doesn’t mean the information is true. Before you share a story about someone else, stop and assess your confidence that you know the truth of the matter. But even if you witnessed it with your own eyes, we have to go to the second filter.
2. Do you need it?
Just because something is true doesn’t mean it should be shared. It may be true that your sister’s husband got fired for cheating, but you should give your extended family details about what he did and how your boss discovered it. Shouldn’t it be enough to say that he lost his job and is looking for a new one? Or maybe he doesn’t need to be raised at all.
Sometimes there are good reasons to share bad news. Perhaps you were visiting your hometown on vacation and before heading to Christmas Eve service, your mother told you that your beloved childhood Sunday school teacher was recently divorced. You may need to know so that you don’t hurt this woman in the middle of nowhere. And that brings us to the final question.
3. Are you kind?
As in the case of divorce, when dealing with someone who is suffering or grieving, it may be kind to share information that may sensitize others. But this filter asks us to consider not just what we share, but how we share it.
Even things that seem to need to be said should be considered ways in which they can be kindly shared. This may mean setting someone apart for private conversation rather than sharing in front of a large group. It could mean telling the story in a way that presents someone in the light of the .
How can I stop gossiping about other people?
What should you do if you find someone else gossiping during a conversation? First, pray and ask the Lord for wisdom. Depending on the situation and your relationship with the person you are gossiping about, different responses may be appropriate.
Even things that seem to need to be said should be considered ways in which they can be kindly shared.
You might look for opportunities to gently steer the conversation to another, more appropriate topic. Or you might humbly offer another perspective on the person being gossiped about. I found it helpful to talk back. Or you might compliment the person directly.
If these tactics don’t seem to work for you, you can choose to casually walk away and join another conversation. You might even end up confronting the gossiper later in private and affectionately, especially if you notice a pattern.
But the best way to stop the gossip is to tell stories of beauty and redemption. Her husband and I host a New Year’s Eve feast for six of her other couples each year. We asked them to reflect on their year, how they’ve seen God work, the great books they’ve read, the new curiosities they’ve explored, and the others who have blessed them. The result is an evening of conversation pointing to each other “all true, all righteous, all just, all pure, all lovely, all praiseworthy” (Phil. 4:8).
Even if you’re worried about gossiping at a holiday get-together, you don’t necessarily have to agonize over every word you speak or be prepared for awkward confrontations. Think, “If there is anything worthy of praise” (Philippians 4:8) and talk about it.