The company gossip keeps in passages that mention it are things like slander, idleness, malice, inappropriate conversations and things like that. One way you might notice gossip is if you see some of those characters hanging around.
If you were to use Strong’s concordance to find a definition of the word, you will find “whispering” and “secret detraction”. Whispering we understand: (Pssst! Listen to this but don’t tell anyone…” It is a secret simply because you don’t tell it in the open. Face it, who gossips about Joe when Joe is right there with them? Detraction is something that takes away from a person, perhaps their character or reputation may be attacked OR the person gossiping tries to make them smaller in order to try and increase their own status.
Some definitions that people gave me which I think are good are as follows:
- The speech intended to hurt, discredit, or simply set up in a bad light.
- Repeating what you heard or thought you heard, sometimes adding your own spin
- The propagation of rumor or slander, whether factual or fictional
David Watson, who preaches for the Benchley church of Christ provided this definition : The sharing of personal or negative information, either true or false, about someone else without righteous intent. (Note: This doesn’t mean that you want your intent to be righteous. It either is or is not)
Which brings me to the 4 things that I think will, if we keep them in mind, help us avoid gossip.
#1. What is the content of the information?
The content of the information, in order to not be gossip, must be absolutely true without spin or exaggeration. Just because something is true does not mean that it is NOT gossip, but statements which are false, misleading, or slanted for effect or sensationalism will quickly fall into gossip, rumors, or slander.
#2. What is the motive for telling the information?
Is it needed for the good of the person to whom you tell OR is it good for the person whose information you are sharing? Sharing information with people who do not need the information to protect themselves is a lot closer to gossip than we generally acknowledge. Sharing information that does not help the person you are talking about is almost always going to fall into the category of idle speaking and gossip.
When dealing with first graders, who are notorious for tattling, a question I often asked them was this: “Are you telling me this because you want them to be in trouble or because they are in danger?” To get a fellow student in trouble (e.g. they are not walking in line) is tattling but if they are in danger (e.g. He has a lighter and is burning his shoe lace) it is acceptable information sharing.
#3. Are you open about your part in the sharing of the information?
Have you ever told someone something you thought they should know, perhaps even so they could do something about it and then added “But don’t tell them where you heard it.”? If this is not “whispering” I do not know what is. Again, by itself, this is not a full proof example of gossip. However, I would hope we can tell the difference between someone needing to be in a witness protection program and a neighbor, friend or acquaintance who might be settling a grudge, simply stirring the pot of conflict, or who wants to avoid being embarrassed if the target of their information ever found out who was the source.
#4. Are you sharing this with someone who can actually solve the problem?
Sharing your dissatisfaction with your company’s vacation policy with the janitor is not going to solve the problem. It will only serve to discourage the janitor who may think he/she is working for a great company. If you have a problem with the vacation policy, talk to HR or the Boss but don’t discuss with others. Even if a majority agreed with you, you run more of a risk of sedition (a close cousin to gossip and slander) than actually solving the problem.
Ok, So I promised to share with you why Chloe’s report to Paul and his rebuke to the Corinthian church did not fall into Gossip. Based on the above 4 criteria: It was true, It was done for the benefit of those with a divisive mentality as well as those who were affected by it, there was transparency as to where the information came from and Paul was indeed able to solve the problem.
So often, when we discuss other people, their lives, or their circumstances, we might meet one of these four criteria but not meet all four. In the end, doing unto others as you would have them do unto you requires us to take extra precautions to avoid slipping into Gossip.