Spoiler alert to the title of this post: The reason I gossip is pride. Pride and a paralyzing need for affirmation. It’s easy to see, hard to admit, and impossible to correct with the grace of God. And even with God’s prodding and poking and threshing and teaching, I give in to the allure of pride-induced gossip over and over again.
You probably know the feeling. You’re in the middle of a conversation and suddenly a person’s name is mentioned. Maybe you brought it up, maybe someone else did. But it’s like the gunshot at the beginning of a sprint because you’ve got dirt on this person. This person did something horrendous to you. Even though everyone with whom you’ve ever had a conversation in the last three years knows what this person did to you, it’s worth mentioning again. Because you’re the good guy here. And people are sympathetic when they know what you’ve been through. They admire your perseverance and forgiveness.
It sounds a lot like this:
“Oh, that doesn’t surprise me after the way he treated me. Did I tell you about that? About how one time…”
Maybe the person didn’t do anything directly to you, but his actions have been just appalling lately. And by “appalling” I mean “juicy.”
“Oh, you mean Name? Yeah, he totally cheats on his wife. He drinks a lot too.” And then the feigned pity over the loved ones who are presumably ignorant of Name’s dealings. “I feel so sorry for her. After all she does for him, to have him running around on her like that? She deserves better.”
And maybe she does deserve better, but in that moment the amount you actually give a damn about her is 5%. The other 95% is the implication you would never cheat on your spouse and you don’t drink anymore and your husband should be happy to have a wonderful, faithful, perfect spouse like you. It would save everyone a lot of time if you’d just say, “Look how bad that person is! Look how great I am!”
Then there’s the person you really love, bless his heart, but he’s just not living up to your standards. Which is good, because it gives you something to talk about.
“So, have you talked to Name lately? You know what he’s doing nowadays? I mean, I love him, don’t get me wrong. It’s just that he’s going down the wrong path. We really need to focus on praying for God to reveal himself to Name, because he isn’t listening to anyone else.”
That’s a classic Church Person trick, turning gossip into a prayer request.
But the really crafty and creative and audacious can pull off the “pretend I’m the one that needs prayer when we all know it’s the other guy” conversation (which, by the way, is my typical go-to).
“I need you to pray for me, because I’m really struggling with Name. He did this one thing yesterday and then again today, and I can’t seem to deal with that anger. I’m really praying about whether or not to say something to him. I know lost people will act lost, but it’s so hard to show grace to him, you know? I just need prayer.”
It sounds funny, right? But it’s not. And every time I enter into one of these conversations wanting people to affirm that I’m right and justified and entitled and oh, so mistreated, or that I’m admirable and respectful and dog-gone-it, just a nice girl, I end up feeling affirmed by people but not so affirmed by God.
Every time I go searching for something to scratch my itch for pride, I end up feeling ashamed instead.
My mouth, big as it may be, is not the issue. My heart is the issue. “For whatever is in your heart determines what you say. A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart, and an evil person produces evil things from the treasury of an evil heart. And I tell you this, you must give an account on judgment day for every idle word you speak. The words you say will either acquit or condemn you” (Matthew 12:34-37).
What I say will either acquit or condemn me. That doesn’t mean I won’t get into heaven if my gossip meter is higher than my praise meter, but it does mean gossip reveals what’s truly in my heart. I can vow not to choose gossip, but as long as I care more about myself and my image than God and his image, I’ll choose gossip, time and time again.
I do not know how to end this post, mainly because gossip is still a constant struggle for me. I do know that my heart has to change before my mouth can change. I do know that God has convicted me of this specific sin in my life and only he can make it right.
God, I know I need a heart adjustment. When I’m tempted to gossip, please pull my eyes to you. Remind me that I’m a sinner, no better than those I choose to gossip about. Remind me that my worth is solely in you, not in others’ opinions of me.
How has God convicted you of gossip and pride in your lives lately?