Unlearning the Art of Social Gossip

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up, according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.  And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.  Get rid of all bitterness, rage, and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.  Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.  Ephesians 4:29-32 NIV

Have you ever been in a situation where gossip seemed to be the art of social discourse?

I’m not referring to a secular social setting.  I’m referring to us—to a gathering of Christian friends.

I’ve experienced a heavy dose of this recently, and it has made me stop and think and search my own heart.  Even though we may not consider ourselves a gossip, it is easy to get drawn into this type of communication in an effort to fit in or be a part of the group.

After all, we don’t have any bitterness in our hearts toward the person we’re discussing.  We’re just “expressing our opinion.”

But in no uncertain terms, God’s word tells us to “STOP IT!”  James 1:26 tells us, “Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless”.

Proverbs 10:19-21 says, “When there are many words, transgression is unavoidable, but he who restrains his lips is wise.  The tongue of the righteous is as choice silver….the lips of the righteous feed many….”

So how do we unlearn the bad habit of social gossip?  Rather than winking and laughing at this type of conversation, we start taking responsibility for what comes out of our mouths.

We begin taking it seriously, because God takes it seriously!

You may feel like you’re left with nothing to talk about.  What then?  Ephesians 4:29 gives us the answer, “but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs.”  We are to simply encourage one another.

If the person is not present to receive our encouragement, we can pray for them rather than gossip about them.  And be sure not to allow a prayer request to take the form of gossip.

This type of encouragement involves listening to each other closely enough to understand what the other person may need at that point in time.  It is staying in the present and being vulnerable enough to let others know us.

You see, it is only in the absence of gossip that vulnerability can take place.  Because, deep down, we will always wonder if the person who is gossiping about someone else will also talk about us when we’re not around.

It is my prayer that God will bless our efforts as we determine in our hearts to “unlearn the art of social gossip.”

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