Gossip involves saying behind a person’s back what you would never say to his or her face.
Flattery means saying to a person’s face what you would never say behind his or her back.
Here are some wise words from Dan Phillips for when you hear gossip from someone:
- Ask, “Why are you telling me this?” Often, that in itself is such a focusing question that it can bring an end to the whole unpleasant chapter. It has the added benefit that it can help a person whose intentions are as good as his/her judgment is bad.
- Ask, “What’s the difference between what you’re telling me and gossip?” See above; same effect, same potential benefits.
- Ask, “How is your telling me that thought, that complaint, that information going to help you and me love God and our brothers better, and knit us closer together as a church in Christ’s love?” Isn’t that the goal we should share, every one of us? Won’t it take the working of each individual member (Eph. 4:16)? Isn’t the watch-out for harmful influences an every-member ministry (Heb. 3:12-13; 10:24; 13:12-15)?
- Ask, “Now that you’ve told me about that, what are you going to do about it?” While the previous two are subjective, this is not. If neither of the previous two questions succeeded in identifying gossip/whispering/sowing-dissension for what they are, the answer to this question will do so. Tip: if the answer is “Pray,” a good response might be “Then why didn’t you do that and leave it there in the first place?”
- Say, “Now that you’ve told me about that, you’ve morally obligated me to make sure you talk to ____ about it. How long do you think you need, so I can know when this becomes a sin that I will need to confront in you?” The least that this will accomplish is that you’ll fall off the list of gossips’/whisperers’ favorite venting-spots. The most is that you may head off a church split, division, harmed souls, sidelined Gospel ministry, and waylaid discipleship. Isn’t that worth it?
You can read the whole thing here.
Ray Ortlund explains what gossip is and why it is sinfully enticing:
Gossip is our dark moral fervor eagerly seeking gratification.
Gossip makes us feel important and needed as we declare our judgments.
It makes us feel included to know the inside scoop.
It makes us feel powerful to cut someone else down to size, especially someone we are jealous of.
It makes us feel righteous, even responsible, to pronounce someone else guilty.
Gossip can feel good in multiple ways. But it is of the flesh, not of the Spirit.
. . . Gossip is a sin rarely disciplined but often more socially destructive than the sensational sins.
Gossip leaves a wide trail of devastation wherever and however it goes – word of mouth, email, blogging, YouTube.
It erodes trust and destroys morale.
It creates a social environment of suspicion where everyone must wonder what is being said behind their backs and whether appearances of friendship are sincere.
It ruins hard-won reputations with cowardly but effective weapons of misrepresentation.
It manipulates people into taking sides when no such action is necessary or beneficial.
It unleashes the dark powers of psychological transference, doing violence to the gossiper, to the one receiving the gossip and to the person being spoken against.
It makes the Body of Christ look like the Body of Antichrist – destroyers rather than healers.
It exhausts the energies we would otherwise devote to positive witness.
It robs our Lord of the Church he deserves.
It exposes the hostility in our hearts and discredits the gospel in the eyes of the world. Then we wonder why we don’t see more conversions, why “the ground is so hard.”
Read the whole thing, including his own counsel on what you should do when you start to hear gossip.