At one point or another, we’ll all face the sting of gossip. Someone takes a half truth about us, our family, our career, and twists it and spreads it. Sometimes the truth is twisted and that ends up being destructive rather than in a private environment of grace. Other times, gossip is an out-and-out lie, spread maliciously or naively in destructive ways.
I remember my daughter coming through the front door in tears as students at her school were bombarding her with accusations and questions about her brother. She was embarrassed, hurt, and unprepared to deal with the onslaught of half truths, partial truths, and just inappropriate comments. She was angry at the “gossipers” and hurt by on behalf of our family and herself. As a Dad, you want to “rescue your kids” from this nonsense, but you know, gossip is part of life. So how do you teach them to deal with it when it’s aimed at them, and manage it when it’s aimed at others?
In the workplace, having a “stick your head in the sand” and “hold your breath and wait” management style has rarely been successful. Gossip is something that must be addressed quickly. For example, whenever an employee comes in and starts badmouthing another employee, hold on a minute and call the other person into the room. Immediately, the first person’s tone changes, accusations calm down, and the culture is established. “If we have concerns, we talk directly to one another…” Why confront gossip?
Let me tell you a story about how Gossip divided a kingdom and a family…
There is a man in the Bible named David. A King. A Leader. A Poet. A Warrior… The little boy who killed Goliath is now ruling an empire. And one of the recurring problems in his personal life is his inability to combat gossip quickly. In this short account of his life, we see WHY WE SHOULD COMBAT GOSSIP QUICKLY.
2 Samuel 15: 1 After this it happened that Absalom provided himself with chariots and horses, and fifty men to run before him. 2 Now Absalom would rise early and stand beside the way to the gate. So it was, whenever anyone who had a lawsuit came to the king for a decision, that Absalom would call to him and say, “What city are you from?” And he would say, “Your servant is from such and such a tribe of Israel.” 3 Then Absalom would say to him, “Look, your case is good and right; but there is no deputy of the king to hear you.” 4 Moreover Absalom would say, “Oh, that I were made judge in the land, and everyone who has any suit or cause would come to me; then I would give him justice.” 5 And so it was, whenever anyone came near to bow down to him, that he would put out his hand and take him and kiss him. 6 In this manner Absalom acted toward all Israel who came to the king for judgment. So Absalom stole the hearts of the men of Israel.
7 Now it came to pass after forty years that Absalom said to the king, “Please, let me go to Hebron and pay the vow which I made to the LORD. 8 For your servant took a vow while I dwelt at Geshur in Syria, saying, ‘If the LORD indeed brings me back to Jerusalem, then I will serve the LORD.’” 9 And the king said to him, “Go in peace.” So he arose and went to Hebron. 10 Then Absalom sent spies throughout all the tribes of Israel, saying, “As soon as you hear the sound of the trumpet, then you shall say, ‘Absalom reigns in Hebron!’” 11 And with Absalom went two hundred men invited from Jerusalem, and they went along innocently and did not know anything. 12 Then Absalom sent for Ahithophel the Gilonite, David’s counselor, from his city — from Giloh — while he offered sacrifices. And the conspiracy grew strong, for the people with Absalom continually increased in number.
David’s son Absalom used gossip to undermine his father, destroying his father’s reputation, and began a conspiracy and mutiny against him. How did he do it? He got up early, took time to plant the seeds of dissent among the people. He was empathetic, compassionate, while mentioning, “My dad doesn’t have time for you…” But… IF “I” was in charge… And He did it right under his fathers nose. Even when he left to “gather the troops…” His dad was so clueless, he sent him off with the traditional goodbye, “Go in peace.” Meanwhile Absalom wants a “piece” of flesh from his father by taking the kingdom. This turning point in the kingdom rips the family, the kingdom, and the entire empire right down the middle. The next few years are a path of carnage and pain and relational/business devastation.
If You Don’t Uproot Gossip Today, Gossip Will Uproot Your Tomorrow.
It will take courage. It will take overcoming naivety. It will require awkward conversations and time you don’t have…but if you don’t take time to confront gossip today, gossip will uproot your tomorrow. How? We see how it happened in David’s kingdom. Absalom stole the hearts of the people. It easy to make promises on the campaign trail and throw stones at the one in leadership. It’s harder to lead others than to appease others. Here are two animals we need to eliminate if we are going to uproot gossip today and keep gossip from uprooting our tomorrow: 1) Ignore your inner ostrich and 2) fight your inner goat.
Ignore Your Inner Ostrich
The account of David life begins with the phrase, “After that happened” in vs 1, without going into all the detail, here are some highlights. Absalom’s sister was attacked and raped by her step brother and David didn’t step up and get involved. Absalom took matters into his own hands and killed the assailant, Absalom ran for his life, but his father never went after him. Absalom moved back to town years later, but his father ignored him. Absalom burned the fields of David’s general to get his attention, still David ignored him. David was trapped by his inner ostrich. He didn’t know or want to know about the problems in his kingdom and family. He’d rather be naive and blissfully naive. And that inner ostrich that has served him so poorly in the past is back, now that Absalom is back. He now ignores the obvious insubordination and gossip of his son at the front gate of his kingdom.
There is an inner ostrich in all of us we must fight. The ostrich both hides and ignores danger by sticking his head in the sand, rather than coming out to address and see the problem. David needed to fight his inner ostrich. He needed to get out of his castle and see what his son was doing, what his people needed. Even those who followed Absalom needed to fight their inner ostrich. The writer tells us that many who went along with Absalom to stage this mutiny were unaware: “They didn’t know what was going on” vs 11. They didn’t know they’d been sucked into a conspiracy.
When a gossip befriends us, it does so slowly and carefully. Gossip is a passive aggressive form of rebellion. It’s a way of undermining someone without confronting them directly. Just as your inner ostrich is motivated by fear, you refuse to speak directly to the person he has a problem with.
Churches are filled with people…people who gossip. And there will come a time that you gossip and someone calls you on it. And when that time comes, I hope you too can admit the truth. A church is not a group of perfect people, but a group that helps each other ignore the inner ostrich that keeps us hiding our heads from our mistakes. We must fight the inner ostrich in all of us that is too fearful to address issues head on. We must do it sooner rather than later because the consequences are devastating. Remember if we don’t uproot gossip today, it will uproot our tomorrow.
Fight Your Inner Goat
I don’t run into goats very often. When we were in Belize a few years ago, I saw a family with a goat that would eat anything. The goat ate clothes, garbage, food, and literally anything you put in its path. The Bible says that there is an inner goat in all of us. There is an Absalom in all of us that feeds on gossip. We gobble up little tidbits about others. We want to “passively” rebel, enjoy the power of “being in the know,” and elevate ourselves by taking others down.
2 Now Absalom would rise early and stand beside the way to the gate…. 4 Moreover Absalom would say, “Oh, that I were made judge in the land, and everyone who has any suit or cause would come to me; then I would give him justice.” 5 And so it was, whenever anyone came near to bow down to him, that he would put out his hand and take him and kiss him. 6 In this manner Absalom acted toward all Israel who came to the king for judgment. So Absalom stole the hearts of the men of Israel. 10 Then Absalom sent spies throughout all the tribes of Israel
Here we see the techniques of gossip, going early, staying late, being in a place to “catch the gossip.” Planting doubts about superiors, and implanting seeds of “I’d be a better manager than him.” Sending out little spies to get the juicy morsels. Absalom’s inner goat eats and eats and eats and eats… And it’s hard not to get caught up in it all. It’s hard to fight the inner goat…especially if you are in denial that you even have one.
So how do you combat gossip? First you realize that if you don’t uproot gossip today, it will uproot your tomorrow. Second you identify your inner ostrich and goat…but grace is the motivation that makes it all work.
For a free session of Godonomics, visit: http://www.godonomics.com/watch-session-5
Intersperce words from Proverbs
A fool’s lips enter into contention,
And his mouth calls for blows. 7 A fool’s mouth is his destruction, And his lips are the snare of his soul.
The words of a talebearer are like tasty trifles, And they go down into the inmost body.
21 As charcoal is to burning coals, and wood to fire, So is a contentious man to kindle strife. 22 The words of a talebearer are like tasty trifles, And they go down into the inmost body. 23 Fervent lips with a wicked heart Are like earthenware covered with silver dross. 24 He who hates, disguises it with his lips, And lays up deceit within himself; 25 When he speaks kindly, do not believe him,