Gossip: Feathers in the Wind

October 3, 2013

This is 1 of 100 devotionals from my book The ABCs of Wisdom: Building Character With Solomon.

“The words of a gossip are like choice morsels; they go down to a man’s inmost parts.”
                                                Proverbs 18:8

Here are a few verses to ponder: “He who conceals his hatred has lying lips, and whoever spreads slander is a fool” (10:18). “A perverse man stirs up dissension, and a gossip separates close friends” (16:28). “A gossip betrays a confidence; so avoid a man who talks too much” (20:19).

Once upon a time a man said something about his neighbor that was untrue. The word spread around the village as one person told another. But soon the truth came out—what could the man do? He went to see the village priest and the priest gave him some strange instructions.

“Take a bag full of feathers and place one feather on the doorstep of each person who heard the untrue story you told. Then go back a day later, pick up the feather, and bring the bag back to me.”

So the man did as the priest said. But when he went back to pick up the feathers nearly all of them were gone. When he went back to the priest he said, “Father, I did as you said but when I went back the wind had blown the feathers away and I could not get them back.” And the priest replied, “So it is with careless words, my son. Once they are spoken, they cannot be taken back. You may ask forgiveness for what you said but you cannot take your words back. The damage has already been done.”

So it is with gossip. “Hey, did you hear about what Tom did?” “Let me tell you what Phil just told me.” “I just heard Susan and George are separating. Can you believe it?” “Jay is about to lose his job—he’s been goofing off again.” “Ethel finally talked Lloyd into buying a new car. And you know how Lloyd is about money.” And on and on it goes.

It’s not just that we play fast and loose with the truth. Sometimes we tell 80% of the truth and conveniently forget part of the story. Sometimes we tell all the truth we know, but the part we don’t know changes the whole picture. Sometimes we tell the truth but in such a way as to make someone look stupid. Sometimes we just plain lie.

Anyway you slice it … it’s gossip. And it’s hurtful. And it’s wrong. And God hates it. And we should, too.

There is an easy cure. But it takes tremendous discipline. Keep your mouth shut. It works every time.

If you must share what you know, use three questions as a guide before telling what you know to someone else.

                              Is it true?
                              Is it kind?
                              Is it necessary?

There wouldn’t be any gossip if we used those three questions before speaking.

Spirit of Truth, Holiness and Love, fill us with your divine presence that our words may reflect the character of Jesus. Amen.

Going Deeper
How do you define gossip? How often are you guilty of spreading gossip?
What changes do you need to make in this area of your life?

Do you have any thoughts or questions about this post?