“The words of a gossip are like choice morsels; they go down to a man’s inmost parts.”
Friend to Friend
A monster was sneaking into my yard in the dark of night and devouring my prize plants. I never saw his beady eyes or heard his pounding footsteps—just the aftermath of his destruction. He left a trail of slime as he moved from plant to plant, leaving large gaping holes in broadleaf gerbera daisies, gnawing entire velvety
trumpet-shaped blossoms on purple petunias, and reducing bushy begonias to naked stalks.
I asked a neighbor about my flower-bed’s demise, and she said, “You’ve got slugs.”
“Slugs!” I exclaimed. “The yard monster is a tiny little slug?”
“You can put out slug bait to catch them and see for yourself,” my confident neighbor continued.
I sprinkled slug bait all around the yard and then waited. The next morning I viewed the “monsters’” remains. The beasts were about a quarter-inch long—about the size of my little toenail.
How could something so small cause so much damage in such a short amount of time? I mused. Then my mind thought of something else very small that can cause enormous damage in a short amount of time…gossip.
King Solomon wrote, “The words of a gossip are like choice morsels; they go down to a man’s inmost parts” (Proverbs 18:8). Just as one tiny slug can destroy an entire flower bed, so can one tiny morsel of gossip destroy a person’s reputation, mar one’s character, and devour a friendship.
In the South we have this knack for making gossips sound…almost nice. All you have to do is add “bless her heart” to the end of the sentence. It goes like this: “Susie gained fifty pounds with that last pregnancy, bless her heart.” “I heard Mariah yelling at the postman yesterday, bless her heart.” But all the “bless her hearts” don’t mask what is really going on…gossip.
Solomon wrote, “Whoever repeats the matter separates close friends” (Proverbs 17:9 tniv). Charles Allen, author of God’s Psychiatry, observed: “Those of great minds discuss ideas, people of mediocre minds discuss events, and those of small minds discuss other people.” Maybe if we are spending our time talking about people, we need to fill our minds with better information, such as good books and helpful articles.
What exactly is gossip? My dictionary defines gossip as “easy, fluent, trivial talk, talk about people behind their backs.” It’s repeating information about another person’s private affairs. If you have to look around to make sure that no one can hear what you are saying, you are probably gossiping. If you would not say something in front of the person you are talking about, then you’re probably gossiping.
We have often heard the phrase “knowledge is power.” Perhaps that is why gossip is so appealing. It suggests a certain amount of power because “I have the inside scoop.” But gossip is not power. On the contrary, it shows a lack of power…a lack of self-control.
But it takes two to tango the gossip dance. “Without wood the fire goes out; without gossip a quarrel dies down” (Proverbs 26:20). The Bible tells us to make every effort to avoid gossipers (Proverbs 20:19). A good rule of thumb is if you are not part of the problem or part of the solution, then keep the information to yourself.
Paul warned, “Some of you are living idle lives, refusing to work and wasting time meddling in other people’s business” (2 Thessalonians 3:11 nlt). Other translations call such people “busybodies” (nasb, niv).
One day a woman felt overwhelmed with guilt for her years of malicious gossip. She went to the local priest and confessed her sin. The priest was all too aware of her wagging tongue and had experienced the sting of her words firsthand…or rather secondhand.
“What can I do to rectify all the damage I have caused with my gossip?” she asked.
“Gather a bag of feathers,” he began. “Then go around to each house and place a feather at their door.”
That seemed like a simple enough request, so the woman did just as the priest had instructed. After the task was complete, she returned. “I have done what you requested,” she said. “Now what am I to do?”
“Now go back and retrieve each of the feathers,” he replied.
“That is impossible,” the woman argued. “The wind will have blown them all around town by now.”
“Exactly,” replied the wise priest. “Once you have spoken an ill word, it drifts through the air on wings of gossip, never to be retrieved. God has forgiven you, as you have asked. But I cannot remove the consequences of your hurtful words or gather them from the places they have landed.”
Here’s an idea. If a friend approaches you with some “news” or a “concern” about another person, stop and ask, “May I quote you on what you’re about to tell me?” That will usually put a lid on the conversation before it even begins.
So let’s make our lives a no-gossip zone. Are you with me? If so, leave a comment and say, “I’m living in a no gossip zone!”
Lord, I know gossip must be a serious offense because You warn about it so many times in Your Word. I commit to not repeating a matter that does not concern me. Help me to steer conversations away from gossip when I see them going in that direction. Keep guard over the door of my mouth. May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be pleasing in Your sight.
In Jesus’ Name,
Now It’s Your Turn
Read what the following verses teach us about the dangers of gossip: Proverbs 11:9, Proverbs 15:4, Proverbs 16:28.
More from the Girlfriends
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Sharon’s re-released and updated version of her best-selling book and Bible study guide, The Power of a Woman’s Words: How the Words You Speak Shape the Lives of Others are hot off the press. They include new content, including a chapter on the power of a woman’s words to her adult children…it’s complicated! Perfect for your women’s ministry’s next Bible study!
Words are one of the most powerful forces in the universe, and God has entrusted them to you! They echo in hearts and minds long after they are spoken. How will we use this gift? Your words can change the course of someone’s day…even someone’s life. Learn how to
- exchange careless words that hurt for intentional words that help others succeed
- recognize words that tear down confidence and replace them with words that build others up
- overcome the negativity that pushes people away and become a well of positivity that draws others in
- tame your tongue by practicing practical principles that help you think before you speak
- stop being disappointed in your lack of control by taking hold into the power of the Holy Spirit