Have you ever noticed how much of our conversations revolve around other people? After all, once you’ve updated a friend on what’s new with you, what’s there left to talk about? Some gossip is obviously unkind, and some is disguised as “concern” (“I can’t believe she’s fallen so far! I’m praying Jesus changes her heart!”). But when it comes down to it, gossip is gossip, defined as “idle talk, especially about the personal or private affairs of others.” It can be so much fun, though, and an easy way to fill the time! And aren’t we allowed to vent to others?! Here’s why I think it’s in everyone’s best interest to stop gossiping:
Why We Should Stop Gossiping
- It’s usually a waste of our time. We don’t know all the details, and likely have at least some of them wrong. Unless we follow someone like a shadow all day long into even private places, there’s likely something we don’t know about them or their circumstances. That woman seems like a horrible, nagging wife until we understand how her husband treats her in private. That coworker who doesn’t have a good head on his shoulders? He’s feeling overwhelmed by a parent’s recent diagnosis, and is making arrangements for their passing. We don’t know all the details of someone’s past, or daily habits, or the work they’ve been tirelessly pouring into something, or what they’ve sacrificed. And our lack of knowledge could unfairly cast them in a poor light…plus lead to us wasting time and energy discussing a situation that doesn’t even exist.
- Gossip usually puts us in a negative, critical mood. Talking poorly about others can leave us feeling frustrated, and even angry. After all, we’re talking about someone who offends us and the person we’re talking to is backing up our opinion. Now we’re even more offended! Even talking positively about others can lead to the comparison game, leaving us feeling as if our own lives don’t measure up. The point is that gossip eats away at us and our mood, not the moods of those we’re talking about.
- It makes it difficult to experience honest, meaningful relationships. First of all, if we’re constantly nitpicking others, we may have a difficult time finding someone we actually like. Secondly, it may leave our friends wondering if they’re safe from our gossip. I once had an acquaintance that constantly told me how much she loved me, but then just as constantly trash talked several of her friends. She wondered why I wasn’t closer to her, and didn’t share more with her. But I saw how she treated others behind their backs, and didn’t expect to be treated any differently. If we want people to open up and share their lives with us, we have to demonstrate that we’re trustworthy.
- For Christians, it stands in the way of our relationship with Jesus. James 1:26 (NLT) says, “If you claim to be religious but don’t control your tongue, you are fooling yourself, and your religion is worthless.” James 4:11-12 (MSG) goes on, “Don’t bad-mouth each other, friends. It’s God’s Word, his Message, his Royal Rule, that takes a beating in that kind of talk. You’re supposed to be honoring the Message, not writing graffiti all over it. God is in charge of deciding human destiny. Who do you think you are to meddle in the destiny of others?” I could list hundreds of verses about refraining from gossip. But it doesn’t just advise against gossiping, it provides us with a blueprint of what to do when someone hurts us in Matthew 18:15-17. (Spoiler alert: It’s to speak with them privately and directly.) Not only does gossip go against the Bible’s teaching, which keeps us further from Jesus, but it provides a bad witness to others.
How to Stop Gossiping
So how in the world can we stop gossiping? It’s an incredibly difficult habit to break, but it can be done.
- Fist of all, be careful not to rush to judgement. Remember the first point above – that we don’t know all of the details and probably never will. The truth is that we don’t have to pass any judgement at all, good or bad, on most situations. I try to make it a habit to focus on my own words and actions and let everyone else’s sort themselves out.
- Change the subject when gossiping starts. People are usually looking for fuel to add to their gossip fire. When we don’t join in, and especially when we change the topic altogether, their fire quickly dwindles.
- Avoid people whose main topic of conversation is gossip. You already have a name in mind, don’t you? Some people don’t seem capable of talking about anything else. Avoid them whenever possible. Studies have shown that negative attitudes spread quickly and easily, so be selective about the company you keep.
- Avoid social media if it acts as a trigger for gossip. It’s hard to stop gossiping about our coworker’s marriage if we’re constantly scrolling past photos of them with their spouse, or rolling our eyes at their lovey dovey posts. Unfollow or unfriend them, or even decrease social media usage altogether (and gain an extra 14 hours a week)!
- Vent if necessary, but once, and to just one person. I know, I know, sometimes someone wrongs you and you just need to talk through it with a friend. So choose one friend, talk about it, and make a conscious effort not to come back to that same conversation again, except possibly with a therapist. The more we gossip about something, and the more people we gossip with, the more fuel we’re feeding that fire.
- Make a conscious decision to shift your thoughts. This is easier said than done, I know. But the next time you find yourself gossiping, or even thinking about gossip, decide to think about something else, and do it. Have a topic ready to roll if necessary! If you love thinking or talking about music, your favorite hobby, or anything else, make it your go-to escape plan when gossip rears its ugly head.
Wrap It Up
It’s in everyone’s best interest to stop gossiping. And you can do it by avoiding judgement, changing the subject, avoiding triggers, and shifting your thoughts after a limited venting session.
What helped you to stop gossiping? Be sure to share in the comments!
P.S. Are your worries a trigger for gossip? Or vice versa? Click here to download our free workbook, How to Stop Worrying, and start taking control today!
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