During election month gossip sprouts up louder and larger among both genders. We all have our dirt on the common enemy. We find ourselves feeling closer to those who vote along with us and give us reasons to find idiocy or evil in the other candidate.
Out of the heart our mouth speaks (Matt 12:34). Gossip appeals to any person who has fear in their heart. Gossip is a way to feel superior and tribal and therefore protected. Gossip insulates those of us who are insecure.
So why do women often get targeted as gossipy? First, female friendships don’t abide silence and companionship without talking (not as well as male friendships). Women tend to fill the empty space with something. Second, many women haven’t developed a solid sense of their identity apart from their power over their husbands, children, friends. With less to bring to the table in terms of our own ideas, feelings, hopes, we lean on the stuff we do know.
Sometimes gossiping helps us feel less empty.
Gossip is a crutch to anyone with a undeveloped soul. And rather than draw our censure and disgust, gossip needs to be an alarm bell that this person feels inadequate, hurt, small.
But before we start thinking of all the gossips we know, let’s take a step back and re-evaluate if we really know what gossip is.
What is Gossip?
I am afraid that many God-fearing women and men hold their tongues because they believe gossip = negative words.
Gossip is more than negative reports. Jesus spoke up repeatedly about the evil things people were doing, and not always in their presence. Jesus talked about people behind their backs to unveil lies and truth, to help his followers find goodness.
Gossip is more than “talking behind someone’s back.”
I talk behind my husband’s back when I’m planning a surprise gift for Christmas. I tell his closest friends and we plot and plan to make it special.
But this is not gossip.
Why is gossip so slippery to define? And why does it seem to be part of the sins women get warned against more than men (1 Tim 3:11, 5:13)?
You can’t simply do a word study on gossip to find out what gossip is. Try searching other words as well “slander”, “whisper” to round out the meaning. Psalm 41:7 reveals a key, ”All who hate me whisper together against me; Against me they devise my hurt.”
Gossip requires one necessary ingredients: an aim to harm. If I call my friend and tell her how my husband just crushed my spirit is this gossip?
Depends on my intention. Do I tell her to process before I calm myself down and carefully share my feelings with my husband? Or do I call her to prove how idiotic my husband is?
Next time you’re not sure if you’re gossiping, ask yourself:
- Am I trying to harm my this person’s growth in Jesus? (not simply “Will this harm their reputation?” for all evil things we’ve done, if known, do harm our reputation. It harms the rapist’s reputation to have it known that he’s raped three girls. But telling the truth is not gossip.)
- Am I trying to put this person beneath me in value or significance?
- Am I trying to gain sympathy to get my friend on my side against this person?
If not, then why am I sharing this? What is my goal?
Put another way, gossip involves these types of motivations (there may be more):
- I want to be perceived as one in the know (Listen to the dirt I have on her!).
- I want to put others beneath me (Can you believe he chose that?).
- I want indignation so others will join my crusade (I was treated horribly by this person, so don’t befriend them).
Sharing news or personal secrets crosses into gossip when we try to shift power in our favor. Proverbs 18:8 puts it like this, “The words of a whisperer are like dainty morsels, And they go down into the innermost parts of the body.”
We share gossip because we want power over someone.
A Challenge to Women
But, if we share personal things for the sake of comfort and compassion, for the sake of clarity and encouragement, for the sake of truth and healing, we are not gossiping.
Many women hold the sole set of keys to out some serious sins of molestation, rape, spiritual, emotional and physical abuse (the latter of which is by and large a male dominated offense). While some disagree with me, I do not believe silence is an indicator of purity.
If we are afraid to speak in the light the deeds someone else did in the dark, if we are afraid of how we may be accused of being negative or improper, if we are afraid that truth-telling may rip apart communities, ruin memories of the happy times, tear asunder families so that we stay still and quiet when we know evil is being done, then we are not like Jesus.
And we will be guilty of overlooking the fatherless, the voiceless, the widow, the orphan. God has lots to say about that, too.
To speak of the ways someone has hurt us is not gossip. To confess that we have been lied to, harmed, assaulted, molested, attacked or raped is not gossip.
not if it is true.
not if we are seeking healing and hope.
not if we are trying to prevent the aggressor from hurting others.