Thursday, October 13, 2011

Did You Hear?

Did you hear I have a devotion published this weekend with Proverbs 31 Ministries? About gossip.

Gossiping has left us all the side of wrong at some time or another.

If you stop by here often you might know I read academic journals - I teach communication at a university. One published study on the topic of gossip reported that up to 65% of people's daily conversation could be labeled as gossip. The researchers arrived at this conclusion after much eavesdropping on people's conversations in public places like trains, bars, restaurants and a university cafeteria.

You might be thinking that percentage is lower among Christians. Perhaps so. I hope so! But even cut by a quarter percent, that would make 40% of our conversations gossipy.

The Bible speaks to gossiping or slander quite a few times - like over 100.  Apparently this popular modern habit - with entire magazines and websites dedicated to celebrity gossip  - has been prevalent since the beginning of time.

Fired for Whispering

A few years ago 4 female employees that worked for the town of Hooksett, NH actually got fired for gossiping. People were outraged over that. Good Morning America covered the story. Between them the women had served the town for 46 years prior to this.

Then they were fired for discussing rumors of an improper relationship between another employee and the town administrator.

The administrator complained to the town council. After an investigation, the town council fired the women, saying, "Gossip, whispering, and an unfriendly environment are causing poor morale and interfering with the efficient performance of town business."

These women were shocked to be fired for this. Probably because it seemed to them a harmless act, or at least a common thing to do.  But I'm sure the objects of their gossip didn't think it was harmless.  I'm sure they didn't care how common gossiping is.

Turns out the rumors of the improper relationship were false. (Can you imagine trying to convince your spouse that the rumors are not true when the majority of the town is talking about the affair you are supposedly having?) 

So the women were discussing something about other people that turned out to be false. Just rumors and suspicions. But what if the accusations were true? What if there was an affair going on?

How would that change things? Would that change whether or not they should be fired for discussing it?

Nailing Down a Slippery Subject

What makes gossip gossip?  Is it whether the topic at hand is true or untrue? Or the whether it is known fact or presumed true? Or is it just the fact that the topic at hand is not really any of your personal business?

And when it's your boss, as in these people's case, is it then your business to some degree? What about when your boss is not just your manager but his job means he is also leading the whole town.  Does that change anything?

I'd love to know what you're thinking. How do we know when we're being discerning and when we're just serving dirt?

I'm sure the boss was thinking, Just come ask me if you suspect something wrong is going on. And I'm sure the employees would say in response, "Yeah right, and you'd tell me the truth if you were having an affair? And I'd not be in trouble for asking you that?

Sometimes I think people want to check and compare their assumptions with others before going straight to the source to ask if it is true. That is if they ever do go to the source, which takes courage. And perhaps risk. And should be motivated by a desire for truth in love.

Way too often gossiping is just a form of recreation. Dangerous recreation that seems safe and serves as a bonding point, but is so much more sinister than it seems.  So where's the line between reasonable communication and reckless talk?

I'm at a wedding in the Pocono Mountains this weekend, but I really do want to hear what you think about gossip. Do you struggle to tame your tongue? Have you been burned by gossip? What makes gossip gossip?  And do you think those women should've been fired? 

Comment and you may win a copy of the book It's No Secret.  Here's my promised favorite fall cheesecake.


  1. Hi Rachel.. Hope you have a fun relaxed weekend. Your post/devotion this morning has hit a place deep inside that God has been dealing with in me. I do struggle, and HATE myself when I share gossip even when I know it to be true. I have been affected by gossip. IT HURTS!!! To me gossip is talking about someone negeatively. Yes, I think the women should of been fired (I hold my breath as I say this, cause of my past words, Even if the affair was true.. I've been trying to pray for the people I hear things on, or dismiss myslef when things are being said. Lord, help me.. Thanks for sharing.

  2. It doesn't surprise me that the women were fired..I had worked in a state job for many years and whenever employees started rumors and/or spread rumors, they were either fired or had to face retribution (such as suddenly getting reassigned to a lesser position or shift)
    I honestly don't know if they should have been fired! That's a hard question! But isn't it so easy to get caught up in gossip at work? This is a great example to stay clear away from it!!
    This was a wonderful devotional! Thank you for these reminders! I love your blog :) You are awesome!

  3. Hello,
    I did commment at the end of the devotion but then I went over & read your blog. I have to think a little more about the story of the women in NH before commenting on that-but the one thing I do know is that even though it was shocking to others maybe it set a good precedent & maybe others learned from it-hopefully so! Anyway, I know that I need to be careful myself & it's not easy especially as women-each morning I pray that God would put a guard around my heart, tongue & mind-I really want HIM to do this b/c w/o HIM I think I (and all of us) would fail each time in this area of gossip. Thanks so much for the blog and the devotion-so much to think about & to pray over! Blessings!

  4. Rachel, This topic was AWESOME!!! God really spoke to me today. I've been dealing with this for a while and im trying to control it. Asking the Holy Spirit to tame my tongue any time this situation comes around. There are days that i still get involved with it but the holy spirit has helped me alot in turning from it. Thank you for such an A-M-A-Z-I-N-G Word. God Bless You and have a Great weekend!!!

  5. Good Morning Rachel. I just got back froma ladys retreat, it was the first one I have been too. Its was about sweet or sour friends and which one we are. I had a lot of fun.
    As far as gossiping I have not done that so much, but I have been the center of it my whole life. Its hurts to have people talk about you. It makes you feel unwanted and worthless. The times I have gossiped its usually been about the ones gossiping about me, its was like justifacation, but then I started to listen to the way these people lived and felt sorry for them so I quit I let them go ahead a talk about me but cause well they were hurting they had bad home lives their parents were not around they were on there own. I did however start to pray for them, that they would find help find love.
    Do I think the ladys should have been fired no, i do think how ever they should have had a work shop on work ethics, and may stopped to think before the spoke it really worth talking about they should have stoped to think if this was me would I want it to be talked about.
    I hope you have fun an your retreat. And I pray the new couple have a life time of happiness. Have a blessed day.

  6. Racheal. This post was great. It just spoke to me very intimately. sometimes people even gossip after church as we are waiting for the men to finish up a meeting we drive home or just to catch up. it sounds so okay sometimes but after that it is always stale.
    I did sent this post to a few of my friends in Kenya and three replied back that they loved it. Below is one of the replies I got from my friend after forwarding .
    "Good one and I agree with the basic message about the effects on ones own soul.
    However, I find gossip quite unpleasant but I always try to say to the group that we should not judge lest we be judged. Is excusing oneself and leaving as the author proposes not just perpetuating it in some way? I think we should stand up to negative behavior rather than avoid it" Racheal how can you adress yourself to this view by my friend, especially when it is fellow Christians doing it. Is this running from responsibility and essentially failing in your role as brothers keeper? what methods can you use to make other sisters know that you feel this is wrong?.

  7. Wedding in the Poconos sounds so nice, hope the weather cooperates! I struggle with gossip all the time. Usually I find myself justifying it by saying "I'm not saying anything they don't already know" but it still doesn't make it right. I've been reading the Bible more and trying hard not to gossip lately and it seems to be working.

  8. Hey, Rachel ... Trixie B. fan here. I believe gossip is one of the sneakiest ways the enemy worms his way in and uses us. We start those cruel whispered words even as little girls, and it only gets more enticing with age. Wonderful post. Heck, I might just blog about this myself. (I'm blogging about my battles this month, and I most definitely battle this!). But the Holy Spirit has convicted me like crazy about gossiping lately. Thank you for your words today. You're a blessing. <3

  9. Great post! This is such a hard one for most of us girls. I do think, now that you addressed it, it's going to be in the forefront of our minds even more so... and that's a good thing. I do fall prey to this one, often times ignoring the Holy Spirit's prompting to 'not go there'. Not sure about the firing... have to think on that one. We'd have alot of empty work places if all employers adopted that policy.

  10. Hi Rachel, Many years ago, I was a recently separated mom with a 2 year old. I got a job where I was the timekeeper and went out into the shop among about 150 men. I learned that men can gossip as bad OR WORSE than women, and I was often the object of their gossip. "Who was I sleeping with this week?" God helped me deal with it, by me taking the attitude that as long as they were talking about me, they were leaving someone else alone. And the people who really knew me, knew it was all lies. Thanks.

  11. One of things I love about my co-worker Cindy is her passion for Jesus. When gossip gets started Cindy always says, "Uh oh, I can't have this conversation. If I do I'll have to repent!" She laughs, smiles, and turns around in her chair to face her computer.

    This post reminds to try to be more like Cindy. I'm so blessed to have teachers all around me!

  12. Rachel, thanks for the reminder about gossip. I liked the analogy with the use of the word "dirt." It does make me feel dirty if I have engaged in even the smallest tidbit of gossip. God is the Great Reminder of so many things, and this is one of those I need to work on too. Appreciate your writing and commitment to Him.

  13. Interesting timing on this topic. While expressing some prayer concerns in Sunday School, one member requested prayer for a lady who hasn't been there in quite awhile and then the discussion turned to her problems. After the fact, I wish I had stopped the conversation at the point where it became more gossip than prayer request. There is a fine line between prayer requests and gossip. And there are those with the best intentions and there are those who delight too much in being the bearer of news. I'm not questioning the truth of the comments, but the need for them to be said.

  14. Hi Rachel,

    Gossip is something you can't seem to get away from. I read something once that said if its not true, kind, or helpful, then don't say it.
    Thanks for this post & great reminder.

    Janet W.

  15. Thanks for the note. I see gossip all the time and it's tough to swallow. Kind of like eating manure filled dirt.

  16. HI Rachel, Thank you for a thought provoking article about gossiping. It appears to be so harmless and yet it can cause such pain. Of my many friends, I have only one whom I've never heard gossip in the 30 years that we shared time together. Hers is an example I try to follow. My mission in life is to show God's Love using my gifts and talents. There is no place for gossip in loving behavior. Your article was the perfect check in for me. Thanks again, and have a wonderful weekend.

  17. Love this post. The Holy Spirit has really been getting me about some of the things I have said lately. Not super juicy gossip, the obvious stuff, but unkind, nonetheless. Thanks for this!
    I can totally understand and support their firing. Having managed a lot of people I can say that few people understand what a profound impact these 3 probably made on the morale in their workplace. After all, you play, you pay, right?

  18. Well said Rachel. I've been receiving Encouragement For Today and The Devotional for several years and this is my first time leaving a comment.
    I've been guilty of being the gossiper or listening to gossip. Afterwards it leaves a heavy feeling in my heart.
    What's sad is that I find my house church leaders and church members being guilty of it but they call it "We have to pray for so and so because...."and the gossip starts.

  19. Great post about gossiping Rachel. Your devotional and your post was very thought provoking and one topic that I discuss with other women friends often. It is one of the biggest weaknesses that I think most of us women have. You have encouraged me to think about gossip and to find ways in which to break the habit of doing it. I hope you had a great time at the Poconos and I hope you have a wonderful week. Your an amazing person and you have such a great gift for words and know just what to say to bring me closer to our savior. May God bless you!
    Laura in New Hampshire

  20. Wow...gossip. I think if the topic is true or untrue, it is gossip. I read a great book called The Runaway Conversation last year. Completely convicted me and changed my life. Thank you for the cnance to win It's No Secret. I love your blog!



Chime in.