“Hey, psst, did you hear?”
“Well, you know, I don't know for sure, but...”
Sound familiar? You know the routine: Don't gossip, don't slander, thou shalt not bear false witness, yadda yadda yadda. Old hat.
But I'm pretty sure you're just as guilty of it as I am. After all, even if we somehow managed to be perfectly gossip-free, we are guilty of breaking all of the commandments with just one little sin (James 2:10). And couldn't passing on possibly untrue information, whether you mean it or not, fall under the commandment that tells us not to lie?
It's not easy! The human tongue is a ferocious beast:
“All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and creatures of the sea are being tamed and have been tamed by man, but no man can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.”
Eager ears love to hear juicy bits of information.
You're probably familiar with the telephone game, where one person comes up with a sentence and whispers it into someone's ear. It gets passed on down the line just like that, and not once does it ever end up resembling the original phrase.
What may start with a nugget of truth gets twisted and morphed into some entirely different thing, bearing however little morsel of truth there may be left. Or maybe there is none left.
It is very easy to pass on distorted truths without knowing it. How many times have you started a sentence with, “Well, I didn't hear the whole thing, and I'm not sure if this is true or not, but...”? Uh huh, raise your hand.
I don't want to focus much on the traditional gossip you always hear about, but rather unintentional dishonesty and automatic, unthinking complaining.
Case in point: there has been a lot of construction on a road near us for quite a while now, and if I haven't already (maybe I have!), I probably would have said to my husband something like, “Can you believe they haven't finished with that yet?”
Who am I to criticize the workers on something I know nothing about? Maybe there were delays in getting the materials. Maybe they had a shortage of workers. Maybe they hit a snag and more work needed to be done.
Before you share some news about someone or discuss something, stop for just a second to double-check to make sure you're not passing on something that might hurt someone or their reputation or give a wrong view on an issue. You might know when Susie Smith is moving, but if you're not sure of the reason why, maybe the best thing to do is keep quiet and not pose any opinions or repeat something you overheard.
Try to put yourself in the situation that someone involved is listening—would you still want to say what you were about to? We need to build each other up, as it says in Ephesians 4:29:
“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, and that it may benefit those who listen.”
Let's build each other up in Christian love and “keep [our] tongue[s] from evil” (Psalm 34:13)!