This is part II of the "No Gossip Zone." I first defined gossip according the Webster's 1828 Dictionary as-GOSSIPING- Prating; chatting; running from place to place and tattling. In the first of the series, I covered "prating." In this part, "chatting" is covered.
CHATTING-To talk in a light and familiar manner; to converse without form or ceremony; to gossip.
I thought that the words "light and familiar" were interesting. Gossip often comes across as talk that is done in a light and familiar manner. Oftentimes someone who is presenting gossip does it in a way that can make you think that they are giving you insight into their world and that they are sharing something with you that will help you bond. I remember as a young mother having several friends who had babies too. We all lived in an apartment complex and would bring our lawn chairs and babies outside. I remember one particular day that I ended up with one of the friends after the others had all left. She filled me in on the marital troubles of one of the other moms. I remember afterward thinking, "Why did I need to know that? Is it true? Does it matter if it's true?" I have always felt bad for allowing myself to become the receptacle to someone else's verbal garbage.That incident was over 20 years ago, and I still wish I had never heard that gossip. That incident caused me to wonder what kind of "friend" she was to the friend who was being gossiped about. Another thought I had was, "If she will talk about that friend, then she will also talk about me." I realized that I did not trust the gossiping friend with my own personal information.
We need to guard ourselves from conversation that has no form. I have several topics of conversation that I try to use when being with other people so that I don't get caught in the gossip trap of chatting. Recently we had a painting day at the church. I really enjoyed engaging my new friends in conversations about recipes, cooking, family, pets, blessings, exercise, the latest Bible study, etc. You may think, "Well, it sounds to me as if you were chatting!" No, I always have topics of conversation mentally prepared to discuss with people in order that my conversation will be formatted so that gossip does not occur. When you set the tone of the conversation by talking about what God has done for you, what blessed you during your Bible reading, or relating your latest soul-winning experience, gossipers will have a hard time steering the conversation to negative prattle.
Steering the conversation is my favorite way to prevent gossip, but there are others depending on your level of bravery!
1. A great teacher of mine, Mrs. Marlene Evans, always said that when we are hit with gossip, always ask, "Why do I need to know that?" Even if some were to say, "Did you know" or "Did you hear" about so and so, you should say, "Is there a reason why I need to know that?" Those are questions that will stop gossip in its tracks.
2.You can let a friend who gossips know that you don't want to gossip. Look up some verses on the tongue and share them with your friend. Tell them that you have been working on some spiritual aspects of your life and that you would like their help in this area.
3. If your relationship is based on gossip, you may need to pull away from that relationship. Sometimes this process can be kind of painful, but if you really can't control the situation, this may be the only option.
While looking at a website on 44 Priniciples of Church Growth, these were the first two principles:
1. The number one reason for church growth is the preaching ability of the pastor. (Luke 3:1-7)
2. The number one reason why people stop coming to your church is conflict and gossip! (James 3:5-6 Even so the tongue is a little member, and boasteth great things. Behold, how great a matter a little fire kindleth! And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity: so is the tongue among our members, that it defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire of hell.)
Gossip and conflict in the church can destroy the influence of the preaching!!! God forbid that any church member be the reason why a church fails. Learning to control our tongues will help further the influence of the Gospel of Christ so that our communities and towns can be reached. Learning to control our tongues will create a truly Christlike atmosphere in our churches. Learning to control our tongues is a huge sign of spiritual maturity in the Christian. Let's work hard at developing topics of conversation that are pleasing to God and not ones that would tear down the family of God.