How gossip hurts people and the body of Messiah is a serious and unwelcome subject.
To begin, gossip has become acceptable in our western culture and barely acknowledged as wrong within Christian or Messianic communities. It has truly become a “no big deal” sin. How gossip hurts and ruins lives is no longer a consideration among most proclaimed believers.
How can this be? Is it because it is so widespread that each and everyone of us know we too have participated in gossip that hurt someone? Do we want to turn a blind eye to the lives it ruins? Is it too difficult to acknowledge we are a part of that evil?
The Definition of Gossip
When considering how gossip hurts us, the Hebrew term lashon hara (or ) (Hebrew לשון הרע; “evil tongue“) is the halakhic term for speech about another person. Lashon hara (lit. “evil tongue“) is considered to be a very serious sin in the Jewish tradition. ()
The Hebrew culture has maintained a deeper understanding of how unethical gossip is, and exhibits a strong support of ethical conduct (mussar) in this regard. The culture looks down upon and strictly prohibits derogatory comments, slander, and gossip. Why? Because this is a culture that through the ages has borne the brunt of the pain that wagging tongues create. Lives and an entire people group have been maligned.
The definition of gossip is not based on our intent! For we know the intentions of our hearts can be wrong and off base. If we leave Yah’s (God’s) Word out of our decision making, we end up doing and saying things we shouldn’t. We truly believe “I have good intentions and a good heart.” However, if we truly desire to follow His Word (and not our hearts), we are going to have to be a little more discerning.
Yah is concerned with the quantity and quality of our words. Gossip, detraction, slander, rudeness, indiscretion and complaining do not have a place in the body of Messiah. Our speech must be placed under the rule of Jesus/Yahshua to bear fruit for His kingdom. Gossip wounds deeply.
Death and life are in the power of the tongue. Proverbs 18:21
Words have power and once spoken cannot be withdrawn. Psalm 140:1-3 comes to mind.
“Power to give life and death…
…for good or for evil…”
Every careless word that people speak matters, and by our words we will be justified or condemned.
The Bible has much to say on this subject. The basic premise is:
Blessings = Benevolent = Good Rewards
Curses = Malevolent = Bad Rewards
In short, recipients of gossip are hurt deeply and lives often ruined. The gossiper himself is hurt significantly by this practice.
This is incredibly serious. The wounds of gossip are intense and painful.
The Book of James and Gossip
Certainly, James states that if you have not tamed your tongue, you are not set-apart (religious). If you have tamed your tongue, you are complete (perfect). Yikes, what a dichotomy! Perhaps we need to consider this more deeply–what is “taming one’s tongue?”
Yah judges our tongue.
It guides and orients our life in a particular direction. James 3:2-5
The Phenomena of the First Hearing
One of the most insidious ways gossip hurts people is this; few people are concerned with truth. Oh, we think we are, but in reality, we most often determine what we believe about a situation (or person) by what we hear first. How often have you said, “that’s not what I heard!”? Regardless of the validity of our first hearing, it is in our human nature to believe that that is the truth of the matter. It’s a messed up phenomena for sure. And sadly, one that most are unaware of or are unwilling to look beyond.
People seldom seek out both sides of a story but remain loyal to what they heard first. They feel they don’t need to hear or understand anything further as they already believe they have the truth. Often, as believers, we hear gossip under the guise of a prayer request or a perceived need for counsel. And usually, this is through those people to whom we are closest. This adds a further dimension of loyalty to the teller rather than the truth. We believe they shared in good faith, without intent to harm. And then we turn around and do the same.
The Fate of the One(s) Gossiped About
Should the gossiped about to take the high road and not add to the cycle of tittle tales and division, they are left out in the cold. Namely, by choosing not to put their perspectives out for the wagging tongue’s further consumption, they are choosing to allow Yah to deal with the damage inflicted by other’s insatiable need to talk when they have no business doing so. Indeed, this is how gossip hurts.
In addition, should the one(s) being maligned give in to temptation and try to address the issue and get the whole truth out, they are seldom believed or even more appallingly, refused an audience.
How to Stop Hurting with Gossip
So, how should we change how we deal with negative stories told to us? How do we stop the cycle of hurt? First, let’s remember if it is something you did not experience or witness first hand, it most certainly would be gossip to talk about it.
Second, if you feel you are close enough to the situation to be involved, you must choose to be involved only in the role of a true peacemaker. Do not get involved to render a judgement.
If you feel called to try to aid with love and grace towards healing and reconciliation or restoration for the parties involved, you MUST listen, truly listen to all perspectives. DO NOT go to the party you have determined is in the wrong to convince them they are wrong. Go to them in love, listen and shower grace and compassion on them. If at some point you believe you need to gently admonish them, do that ONLY after you have truly heard their perspective AND done your best to understand and empathize.
Don’t Pretend to be Switzerland
Where are the Peacemakers?
Surely they exist? What is a Peacemaker? What do Peacemakers do?
Peacemaker- One who makes peace by reconciling those who are at variance.Websters 1828 Dictionary
Peacemakers make Peace
Blessed are the Peacemakers for they shall be called the children of God.Matthew 5:9
Where are they? And why are they neglecting their gift? We need peacemakers more than ever. If you believe yourself to be a peacemaker, do a study on what a peacemaker does. There is no Biblical evidence that I can find that peacemaking is avoiding conflict, or pretending to be neutral. Neither of those activities promote peace.
Here is a wonderful article about the lack of true Peacemakers in our world today – How to Be a Peacemaker in World of Conflict.
Gossip and it’s Supporters – How Gossip Hurts
Shockingly, there is also the contingent of believers who don’t think anything is gossip! They believe telling negative stories is not a problem, it’s just sharing. In like manner, any form of confrontation, regardless of the sin(s) involved is found appalling. I guess this is another offshoot of our “all things are relative” culture. This is a continuation of politically correct beliefs that the only true evil is believing in truth and right and wrong.
A habit of treating truth as a relative thing has infiltrated our culture.
Is the truth relative or is it black and white? There is a definition for gossip and it doesn’t have to do with the intentions of the heart of the person talking, but rather it has to do with how it affects the hearer and the one being spoken about.
Do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Phill. 2:4
Let all things be done for edification. It is about looking out for one another’s good rather than our own.
If sharing a story is not building up your brother or sister, but causes strife, is that of God?
We are to admonish one another.
But to tell negative stories for no reason without any intent to heal or resolve the issue? NO. Oh, how gossip hurts.
The Gossiper is Deeply Hurt Also
Have you ever observed a blatant case of the hurt gossip causes the gossiper? I knew two ladies who were close, the best of friends. Until they weren’t. After the friendship was over, o of them never spoke of the other, never brought her up, never indicated there was an issue. The other talked unkindly about her ex-friend constantly, repeatedly, for years. It has been a stunning example to observe. One has joy and one has bitterness.
While it is a difficult thing to deal with, as stated in When Truth Offends, Speak Truth Anyways we have nothing if we refuse to speak truth.
What Gossip is Not – How Gossip Hurts
In reality , does not gossiping mean you speak only with a soft voice, always being careful of the feelings of each other? Does it mean you never confront sin because that would be an unkind use of your tongue? Does it mean you do not stand up against wrong with any sort of strength of voice or conviction?
Contrarily, does it mean something a little deeper, something that stems from our hearts, something we do not need to justify and excuse? As I mention in my post “Forthright, Honest, Intense,” we must be willing to walk in truth, even when it makes us outcasts.
The Fifth of Lashon Hara
In a very important and deep look at the subject, Norman Willis fleshes out how Hara must be applied in the spirit of love.
Judaism teaches that any communication, whether in speech, writing, or other forms (such as electronic) is almost always to be considered ‘evil’ if it meets all of the following four criteria:Norman Willis, Lashon Hara: The Evil Tongue
It says something negative about a person or party;
Is something not previously known to the public;
Is not seriously intended to correct or improve a negative situation; and
It is true.
If all four of these criteria are met, the communication is almost certainly Lashon Hara. However, Judaism also teaches stipulation: that such communication may even be compulsory if one is aware of the possibility of future harm coming to another person. In those cases, one is ethically required to warn the other person, to keep him from coming to harm. As we will see, this is the key to understanding how the doctrine of Lashon Hara applies to the Renewed Covenant.
Don’t be Like the Cowardly Spies – How Gossip Wounds
At the same time, refusing to acknowledge one’s part in a problem is like the ten cowardly spies. Faithless. Quarrelsome. Wrangling over words and definitions. No heart for love or grace. No kindness, meekness, no forbearing, no graciousness.
Without a doubt, our words can build up, strengthen and encourage others, imparting life. And our words can tear down, weaken and dishearten others, causing death.
Verbal abuse is not okay.
Slander is not okay.
In contrast, in Scripture one of the surest signs of friendship is being open about true intentions, thoughts concerns.
Evil reports are not okay.
You see, life works best for all if we have people around us with whom we can speak openly and personally.
Specifically, we gossip whenever we talk about people in a manner that diminishes our hearers’ trust and esteem for those people. The hurts of gossip wound deeply.
Gossip is no light matter. Gossip wounds deeply. It is a source of bad relationships and is seriously displeasing to Yah. We should flee from it.
1 Tim 5:13 is talking about things not proper to mention which includes speaking about other people’s weaknesses and sins, and about other people’s problems that could reflect on their character or competence. It speaks critically about various areas of other peoples lives.
Truly, where gossip is uprooted and trust established there shall be fulfilled the words of Psalm 133:1.
Without a doubt, gossip destroys the bond of friendship. Where gossip prevails, there relationships will be shallow and individuals isolated. The wounds of gossip are deep.