“Can you pray for Jan? I heard she’s having some issues in her marriage. I think they are on the brink of divorce.” In my fifteen years in ministry, I’ve had many women come to me and start off a conversation just like this one. Yet a conversation like this is nothing more than gossip thinly veiled as a prayer request, used as a way to share information about another member of church.
If I’m honest, it’s easier speaking about someone else’s life rather than my own. I even get a little joy out of hearing someone else’s problems. For a moment, it seems like my life is better than someone else’s. I can temporarily indulge in the spiritual high of knocking someone else off her pedestal in a pathetic attempt to keep me on my pedestal.
How evil and depraved I am.
Perhaps, you, like me, have experienced the spiritual high of hearing about someone else’s problems. Have you thrived even a little bit on the idea that someone who on the exterior is thinner, prettier, or better than you is crumbling on the interior?
Since gossip can be a had concept to identify, ask yourself the following questions before you spout off something you heard:
Would the person be offended if they heard you said it? Gossip rears its ugly head when we talk about our neighbor, especially if she isn’t there to defend herself. If the person you were speaking about walked into the room, would the person be embarrassed at what you were saying? Would you?
Is it factual, or just a rumor? Rumors you hear about others are just that, rumors. Not only can spreading false information ruining their reputation, but also yours.
Could the person you speak of trust you with additional information after you spread this information? You could destroy the trust between you and the other person if she finds out you aired her dirty laundry.
If you find yourself in a situation where someone is gossiping to you, here’s what you can do to stop it:
Shut it down– Politely let the other person know the information you are telling them is none of your business.
Encourage the gossiper to pray- after the other person has gossiped, encourage them to talk to God about the situation rather than to you. After all, what’s a better prayer than the one uttered by someone who heard the information in the first place?
Direct them to the person about whom they are speaking- Matthew 18:15-16, says, “If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.” As Christians, we are commanded to go to a person directly who has hurt us. Direct them to the person to whom they are speaking. If the meeting will end in conflict, volunteer to be a mediator to help them air their grievances in a healthy manner.
Gossip is prevalent in most churches. But that doesn’t mean you need to be a part of it. Nipping gossip in the bud will help not only improve your reputation as a Christian, but also contribute to the heath of the church as a whole.
Michelle S. Lazurek is a pastor’s wife, a mother, an author, and a speaker. She is a contributing writer for Movieguide Magazine, a community group leader for Incourage, and has been published in numerous places such as Charisma Magazine and Women’s Ministry.net’s Tip of the Week. Please visit her website at www.michellelazurek.com, find her on Facebook at Michelle S. Lazurek or follow her on Twitter @mslazurek. You can also email her at [email protected]