I define gossip as telling a third party something about someone (such as what they said or did), and drawing negative but possibly true conclusions about the person based on that. Judging and blaming are usually involved. I’d love to say that I never gossip but that would be a lie—I may try to justify it in different ways (such as: But I’m not malicious!) but of course it’s still gossip.
Benefits of Gossiping?
Gossiping can make you feel good about yourself (yay!), but it’s usually at someone else’s expense (boo!). For example, when I gossip about someone’s actions in a situation, in a way I’m not associating myself with that behaviour or flaw…and I’m conveniently overlooking my own many flaws, some of which may be worse than the one or two I’ve picked out in someone else. And worse, I may actually have the flaw that I’m talking about, but I’m not seeing my flaw in the same way because of that human habit of seeing one’s own faults with a kinder eye than we see other people’s faults (even if they are the exact same).
Gossiping is also a release (of tension, frustration). In situations where you can’t say what you think or want to say to the person who’s bothering you, gossiping allows you to release that frustration in another way. In some cases (like at work) gossiping can save your job or help you to lose it: sharing your frustrations about your colleague with another trusted colleague may keep you from doing something impulsive and unwise, but say the wrong thing to the wrong person and you could be carrying home your belongings in a box shortly thereafter! (That being said, you really have to be careful at work.)
Effects of gossiping
In the moment, gossip can be quite invigorating, but afterwards, when I’m by myself, I start going over the conversation and my conscience kicks in and starts convicting me, reminding me that I’m not an angel, so why am I wasting time talking about other imperfect people. It doesn’t matter if what I was saying was true or based on speculation, I end up wishing I had refrained from gossiping—after the fact. And depending on the situation, sometimes gossiping isn’t a release; instead it keeps me in a negative mood because I’m dwelling on the thing that’s frustrating me—not cool, and it’s why I’m glad so thankful that I discovered Battlefield of the Mind: Winning the Battle in Your Mind* through the small group that I attend.
Alternatives to gossiping
If you can relate to any of this, and want to stop gossipy tendencies, there are solutions. When faced with a situation where the urge to talk about someone who’s frustrating you is great, go ahead and talk…but to God! I was advised to pray that God blesses the person who’s frustrating me. It’s biblical, but not my first thought if I’m honest! When I told the person who advised me that asking God to bless someone who’s getting on my nerves isn’t my first course of action, she said it’s one of those things you have to apply the “fake it ’til you make it” approach to.
I’ve also started asking myself “Why do I care so much about this?” because in most cases, I gossip when I’m getting worked up about someone else’s life, decisions, or actions. God gave us all free will to live our lives as we please, so people have the right to make choices that differ from my own. However, if talking over a situation about a third party leads you to taking action to help someone who’s in a bad situation that may affect their mental or physical health, then it’s worth it. For example, I intervened in a situation where a friend was going to marry someone who I was convinced was emotionally damaging to them. After talking about the situation with mutual friends for a while, I got to the point where I was willing to lose the friendship if my email was not well-received than keep quiet (a face-to-face conversation was impossible because the fiancé(e) had isolated my friend from all other friends). Thankfully the marriage didn’t go forward as planned.
When you find yourself talking regularly about a situation that’s affecting your relationship with someone, it’s time to bring it up with the person rather let your frustrations grow, but this is easier said than done.
I’m more than happy to start or dive into a gossip session, so being aware of this and having a desire to do better is a start. With any bad habit, breaking it will mean avoiding situations that will cause me to slip, and developing effective ways to fight the triggers, and I know it’ll become easier with time. I’m watching my mouth but I’m by no means cured—in fact I gossiped just yesterday!
What’s your view on gossip?
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