By Martina Casey
The Bible is rich with warning against the destructive nature of gossip; from the Ten Commandments to Proverbs, Psalms, Old Testament prophets and most of the New Testament books. As Christian women we should be aware and well equipped against gossip. But do we recognize it in ourselves or others?
Let’s take a look at three types of gossipers with an accompanying Scripture take on each:
The Busybody. “For we hear that some among you walk in idleness, not busy at work, but busybodies” 2 Thessalonians 3:11.
You’ve heard that “an idle mind is the devil’s playground.” This person is in that category; too much time and too little tact. The Busybody, a chatty-Cathy at heart, is the easiest of the gossipers to spot. Your antenna should go up anytime you hear a sentence starting with “have you heard/seen…?” To politely handle the Busybody, be ready to distract. It’s noteworthy to mention that the Busybody could be a lonely soul without the necessary social skills to form meaningful conversation. Lend them an ear without compromising your values by keeping the conversation light.
The Murmurer. “A gossip betrays a confidence, but a trustworthy person keeps a secret” Proverbs 11:13.
Subtle and very often diplomatic in their gossip, the Murmurer is hiding their insecurities behind the gossip. The motive isn’t so much to fill the air with cheap talk, as much as it’s to stir the pot, so to speak.
Here, pay attention to body language in addition to the obvious mentioned with the Busybody. This is a person who will roll their eyes talking about the new mom at the playground or pass a seemingly innocent comment about the choir lady’s tone deafness, often ending the sentence with “bless her heart” or another patronizing comment. The Murmurer is best handled with an equally subtle reminder that we are all imperfect sinners lacking all sorts of talents, then switching topics, and quickly moving on.
The Judas.“You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor” Exodus 20:16.
This is the intentional, revengeful kind of gossip that ruins friendships, relationships, careers and, at times, the very lives of the persons they are after. In its basic form this is the mean queen-bee in high school asserting her territory.
Its more sophisticated form is a coworker after your promotion or the slighted acquaintance you didn’t invite to your wedding. The Judas’ take no prisoners, they are after your personhood and livelihood.
To handle the Judas’, do what Jesus did: forgive them. Then love and pray for them. It is, after all, the Judas’ that need our love and acceptance the most, in them we get to practice Matthew 5:44: “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”
I’m not saying that I’m spiritually there. In St. Paul’s words from Philippians 3:12 “Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect; but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me His own.” The worldly me would like to turn the other cheek, theirs, and slap them twice for their meanness, but Jesus invites us to forgive the unforgivable and love the unlovable. Big sigh.
So, the next time you find yourself in a situation that could lead into gossip territory, remember this purportedly Texan proverb: “when you throw dirt, you lose ground.” Resist, and, with the grace of God, stand firm on your ground.
Until next time, St. Galentine pray for us.