January 18, 2005

Gossip

Gossip. What is this? Most of the time we think of a couple of older women sitting around discussing everyone's business. It is usually accompanied with some, "did you hear what so-and-so did?" or "I can't believe she is seeing someone like that!" or "...well I heard..." and so on. Sometimes we start to visualize the housewives picking up their "prayer chain" in order to discuss certain "prayer requests" with each other, and before you know it, information that should have been kept private has been spread to an entire church during their toddler's afternoon naps.

But is that what this word is referring to? Are the only people that are prone to gossip older women playing bingo?

A couple of years ago I was given a little tool to determine whether or not information should be shared: If the person that you are getting ready to share with "...is not part of the problem or part of the solution..." then they do not need to know. And for quite some time this was an adequate definition for me. Pretty much any situation that I personally encountered was easily handled with this device. But, as we know, nothing is perfect, and even this little tool can still pose some problems, especially if it is misused. So, today I decided to delve in deep to discover what this word means.

The Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary defines gossip this way:

1. a person who habitually reveals personal or sensational facts about others
2. a : rumor or report of an intimate nature b : a chatty talk c : the subject matter of gossip


Not a bad definition at all. Especially note the words habitually, personal, and sensational. All three words focus on the heart of the gossip.

Next I did a little Bible search using studylight. I looked for two words: gossips and gossip. My search for the word gossips turned up 5 verses. (see these verses here) And my search for the word gossip turned up 2 verses. (see these verses here) Listed below are the original words with their Strong's definitions. (If you click on the word it will take you to the full definition, with pronunciation, and other translations of that word.)


------------------------------------------------------


Gossips
1. Psithuristes (gk.) -- a whisperer, secret slanderer, detractor (Rom. 1:29)

2. Diabolos (gk.) -- prone to slander, slanderous, accusing falsely, a calumniator, false accuser, slanderer; metaph. applied to a man who, by opposing the cause of God, may be said to act the part of the devil or to side with him (I Tim. 3:11, II Tim. 3:3, Titus 2:3)

3. Phluaros (gk.) -- of persons uttering or doing silly things, garrulous, babbling; of things, foolish, trifling, vain (I Tim. 5:13)

Gossip
1. Psithurismos (gk.) -- a whispering, i.e. secret slandering; of the magical murmuring of a charmer of snakes (II Cor. 12:20)

2. Pathah (he.) -- to be spacious, be open, be wide; to be simple, entice, deceive, persuade (Prov. 20:19)


------------------------------------------------------


I wasn't as helped by these verses as I had hoped that I would be. The verses themselves don't offer a direct definition of the word gossip. Most of them talk about the word, grouped with several other words, as a list of things or people to not be a part of... to not have as a part of oneself.

After I had read each of these verses, I began to look at the words and their definitions. As you can see, there is more than one word in the original texts that has been translated gossip. But looking at the definitions, you may begin to notice a few similarities.

One big similarity is this idea of slander. I believe that slander is sharing information with the intent of hurt. If your communication is done with the intent of bringing down another, this is definitely not good and could be characterized as gossip.

Sometimes we even seek out certain people to share with because we know that they are going to be on our side. We are looking for allies, people that will join in with us. Our communication has become a campaign to align as many people on our side as possible.

Question your motives. Why are you sharing? What is your purpose to share the information that you have? If you can see that you are aiming to bring someone down, this is not good Godly communication. All of our communication should be characterized by a building up of others. This can be difficult at times.

Most of the greek words also have something to do with being secretive. On further study, I found out that more than one word, that was translated gossip, came from another word that means whispering. I get this picture in my mind of two people looking around to see if they are being watched, and then leaning over and sharing some juicy info. Being sneaky is a big warning signal. If you are sneaking around sharing information, chances are this is gossip.

In the Old Testament, the hebrew word that is used gives you the idea of a person that just says too much. Many times this is the real problem, people who don't know when to shut up.

These three ideas I believe are characterizations of gossip: secretive, slanderous, and talking too much. (I tried to find three words that started with the same letter, but just couldn't do it.) If your communication is characterized by any of these, then be careful.

But what about my original gossip tool? "... part of the problem, or part of the solution..."

It is pretty obvious that if someone is part of the problem, then it would be OK to share with them, to discuss with them, that is the Matthew 18 principle. The real problem is when you begin to wonder, "who is part of the solution?" Now I am going to venture into the arena of my opinion. (Notice that I bolded "my opinion" so that you would make sure to see it.)

My opinion is that there is no specified list of people who are part of the solution. Godly counselors do not have to take the form of a Pastor. Sometimes they are teachers or best friends. Sometimes they are parents or other family members. Sometimes they can be a complete stranger. BUT, here is the key: are they solution minded people? When you go to them, do they steer you to the Word of God? Do they always aim to give Godly counsel?

More importantly, be honest enough with yourself to question your own motives. Even if they are giving you Godly counsel, are you planning on listening? Sometimes it is easy to say that you are going to get some counsel, when in reality, you just want to tell another person about how you were wronged. This can be a tricky thing, don't deceive yourself.

In conclusion, I would seriously like to encourage you to look up these verses for yourself. Come up with your own conclusions, and don't take my word for it.