Sunday, April 02, 2006

The wolf in the sheep suit; Exposing the true face of gossip

I found this arcticle online here.
It's written by Mark D. Roberts

"Have you ever noticed how some sins seem to get all the attention while others are casually dismissed? All too often, we shine the spotlight of judgment on others’ speck-sized sins—while letting our own log-sized transgressions obscure our moral vision.

Gossip is one of those sins that too easily flies beneath our ethical radar. We can tell friends about others’ big, bad sins without realizing, by doing so, we're committing a big, bad sin of our own. We conveniently minimize our offense, frequently with a guise of prayerful concern. After all, we think, being honest is what’s important. Yet, gossiping can corrode our hearts and the lives of others.

To set the record straight: Gossip is talking about other people behind their backs. It usually involves negative or private details that put the individual in a bad light. While the content of the discussion might not be that scandalous, our careless words nevertheless can cause hurt.

What's So Bad About Gossip?

The Bible calls such idle talk a sin, plain and simple. If you're inclined to dismiss gossip as some minor peccadillo, consider the company it keeps. Romans 1:29-30 describes it as “wickedness,” in the same category with "greed, hate, envy, murder, fighting, deception, malicious behavior,” backstabbing, and pride. Anything linked with murder and hatred must have some seriously destructive power!

Gossip greatly damages relationships. It "separates the best of friends," (Proverbs 16:28) causing alienation, anger, and bitterness. Show me a Christian community filled with gossip, and I'll show you a family divided, torn apart by hurt and mistrust. Just recently, gossip disseminated through e-mail among leaders at my church nearly split apart one of our finest outreach ministries. But as another Proverb (26:20) notes, "Fire goes out for lack of fuel, and quarrels disappear when gossip stops."

Looking Better, Becoming Worse

Talking about others can create a false sense of self-righteousness. If you've ever imbibed the intoxicating wine of gossip, you know that behind the virtuous exterior of concern, it's really “all about me.” In truth, we often divulge someone else’s secrets or faults for our own benefit, although we’d swear we do so to help him or her. Not only do we puff up our self-worth by showing we’re “in the know,” but we also imply we’re better than the other person.

It’s a tempting prospect. When we gossip, we feel like morally superior insiders. Even better, if you can do this in the context of a prayer meeting (by sharing a "concern" about an individual), you get the satisfaction of feeling like a spiritual giant to boot. But the momentary exhilaration of being one-up at the expense of others isn’t worth the cost—either to the church or to our own soul.

The Sheep Fight Back

By gossiping, we’re actually showing we are self-deceived sinners who lack the maturity to be trusted with confidential information. Ouch. We’re flat-out disobeying God's Word and damaging His body.

But take heart! We don’t have to get caught in the teeth of this temptation.

1. Recognize gossip for what it is. We need to call what the Bible says is a sin, a sin. When we speak ill of someone, it's almost always wrong. (There are exceptions when speaking out is right, such as reporting a crime or telling parents about their child's dangerous behavior.) If you're inclined to gossip, stop rationalizing. Let the Holy Spirit bring conviction and lead you to repentance.

2. Understand the breadth of gossip’s destructiveness. “The tongue is a small thing, but what enormous damage it can do... It can turn the entire course of your life into a blazing flame of destruction,” James warns the church. (3:5-6) What can initially seem harmless is actually a deadly virus that endangers the health of Christ’s body. If we care about unity in the church as the Lord does (John 17:20-21), we'll be motivated to refrain from speaking without thinking first.

3. Reclaim the power of your words to strengthen and edify others. James 3:2-4 tells us, like a ship’s rudder, the tiny tongue can direct our entire destiny—toward life or death. When we realize our words have great power to do both good and evil, we'll stop underestimating the hurtfulness of gossip and start using our words to build others up, even when they're not within earshot.

4. When you’re on gossip’s receiving end, intentionally praise others, replacing hurtful words with genuine affirmation. Responding to a malicious report with a statement of authentic encouragement can bring the sin of gossip to light. In the process, it can shut down the offender and lead to repentance and reconciliation. First Peter 4:8 reminds us, “Love covers a multitude of sins,”

When we turn away from gossip—which is an effort at self-edification—we find that God alone can satisfy our need for eternal value and confidence. Moreover, we discover the joy of using words to bring life and unity to Christ's body."

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