A friend and I decided to meet up for lunch on our college campus one day. I could hardly wait. I was bursting at the seams with an overwhelming eagerness to share some information about a mutual colleague. Mind you, it was the type of information I would not dare share if the person about whom I was speaking was present. I’m pretty sure Webster would define this as gossip. Nevertheless, they were not present and I just had to tell somebody what I had come to know! We sat down, got our food, drinks, condiments, and all of our other items all situated the way we wanted. Finally, we were settled enough for me to get this information off my chest! I leaned in and said, “Guurrlll…” I went on to share with her the most interest-provoking bit of news I’d come across all week!
She listened. She processed. Then she leaned in and …
(Side note: at this point, I was sitting there with great anticipation for this dialogue that was about to happen. Surely, she was about to set the stage for me to share even more. Then we’d go back and forth breaking down all the details of this oh so fascinating saga. Right?)
. . . She opens her mouth, and with all that I had just laid on her mind, she says, “Christy, could you please pass me my Coke?”
“Pass you your Coke!?” I thought. Did she not hear what I just told her? Perhaps it’s too noisy in here? Maybe I should repeat it louder.
I passed the Coke and waited for her to say, “Ok, girl, what were you saying? I didn’t hear you.”
She never did. Instead there was complete silence. She said nothing. Nothing at all! It was as if the content I shared activated a mute button.
It wasn’t long before I realized what had just happened. That girl played me! I think she’d been reading Proverbs 11:12 that says, “Whoever derides their neighbor has no sense, but the one who has understanding holds their tongue.” I was the one who had “no sense” and she clearly had some “understanding” that I had yet to grasp.
You see, she heard me loud and clear. She, however, had decided that gossiping was not on her list of to do’s that day. Even more admirable is the fact that she did not attempt to force her decision to become my decision. She let me be me and say all I had decided to say, while she chose to not participate.
Her silence spoke volumes.
The moment she did not respond was the moment I felt convicted.
This occurred over a decade ago and it still comes to mind whenever I am tempted to start or take part in a conversation that is not edifying for the person being discussed or the people listening and speaking.
I need to say “Pass the Coke” more often as I prepare to sip and sit in silence rather than let unwholesome talk part my lips so freely.
I used to call it venting, but by the time I “vent” to person 2, 3, and 4, it’s well into the gossip spectrum!
Question: How do we know if we are gossiping or simply sharing information?
Here is an idea: Before leaning in and saying anything ask yourself the following questions:
- What is my intent?
- Is your goal to build yourself up while making someone else look bad?
- What type of information am I about to share?
- Are you about to tell of someone else’s faults and failings? Are you about to expose something potentially embarrassing or shameful without their knowledge or approval?
If the answer is yes, it is indeed gossip.
There is hope for getting a handle on gossiping! We can pass on an invitation to tear someone down with words and accept an invitation to grow up. It takes more courage and maturity to sit silently as others gossip than it does to hop aboard with them.
Proverbs 26:20 says, “Without wood a fire goes out; without a gossip a quarrel dies down.”
The next time that oh so fascinating, interest-provoking information is passed to us, let’s refuse to allow it to pass through us!
Remember, silence speaks.
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