Being on the Receiving End of Gossip

We’ve all been there.

And it hurts.

People love to gossip. It’s hard wired into fallen human nature.

Someone once said. “A lie can make it halfway around the world while the truth is still putting its shoes on.” And we all know the joke (containing a great deal of truth): “Christians don’t gossip; they share ‘prayer requests.”

Years ago, I was on the receiving end of a “gossip mill”. It was demoralizing. None of it was true. But trying to address it was futile.

A friend told me that attempting to address every slanderous word said about you is like releasing a huge bag of feathers into a strong West Texas wind and hoping to catch each one. It simply can’t be done.

It brings us a degree of comfort knowing that King David, described in the New Testament as a “man after God’s own heart”, spent much of his adult life dealing with people who maliciously slandered him. David knew all too well the sting of betrayal. He laments, “It is not an enemy who taunts me— I could bear that. It is not my foes who so arrogantly insult me— I could have hidden from them. Instead, it is you—my equal, my companion and close friend.” (Psalm 55:12-13)

Understand this: gossip is, at its root, bullying. Except gossip is different than overt bullying in that it’s the “coward’s form of bullying.” They’re not even brave enough to bully you to your face. :)) The one and only hope a gossip has to hurt you is their malicious and hateful words, motivated by childish pettiness, immaturity and insecurity. In short, gossip is about them, not you.

Do not allow their words to have power over you. Do not take the bait to react. Consider the source: someone’s pathetic attempt to hurt you and bring you down to their level of personal misery. Misery really does love company.

In the Proverbs, Solomon listed consequence for those who are hell-bent on hurting others. And it’s not good. Paul reminded the believers in Rome that vengeance belongs to God alone. The risen Christ is fully capable of handling hateful, hurtful people.

Certainly, there are situations where we are able to track down the source of the lies and confront them. No doubt, we’ve all, at one time or another, been saddled with that awkward task. But, that is the exception; not the rule. Because, most often, the “source” from which the gossip originated is ghost-like and efforts to find them is a complete waste of time, not to mention emotionally exhausting.

Solomon, although far from a perfect man, was, at one time the Bible tells us, the wisest person on planet earth. Having authored most of a biblical book of poetry called Proverbs, he warns the reader over and over again to be careful about what words come out of our mouths. This particular topic is one of the meta-narratives of the book’s 31 chapters. For example, Proverbs 6:16-19 lists “seven things that are an abomination to the Lord.”Five of the seven are directly related to gossip.

But Solomon offers this sage advice in response to gossip: “Without wood a fire goes out; without a gossip a quarrel dies down.” (26:20) When you stoke a fire it strengthens. When you ignore it – it dies out. The meaning here is clear. Don’t waste your physical and emotional energy trying to “set things straight.” Leave it alone.

And never forget: a person who gossips to you will gossip about you.

Below is a poem I heard a preacher recite a long time ago. It is powerful.

Soli Deo Gloria, Nick

“My Name is Gossip”

I have no respect for justice, I maim without killing;

I break hearts and I ruin lives; I am cunning and malicious and I gather strength with age;

The more I am quoted the more I am believed; My victims are helpless;
They cannot protect themselves against me because I have no name or face;

Tracking me down is impossible; The harder you try the more elusive I become;

I am nobody’s friend; Once I tarnish a reputation it is never the same;

I wreck marriages and I topple governments; I ruin careers and I cause sleepless nights, heartaches, and indigestion; I make innocent people cry on their pillows;

I make headlines….and headaches;

Even my name hisses….my name is Gossip.

Our Incomprehensible God

Psalm 139, which includes the familiar, “I am fearfully and wonderfully made,” is a beautiful song/poem written by the ancient Jewish king, David.

In verses 11-12, David is contemplating the impossibility of escaping from God’s love, care and sight. He writes,…

“I could ask the darkness to hide me and the light around me to become night— but even in darkness I cannot hide from you. To you the night shines as bright as day. Darkness and light are the same to you.”

Put your mind on “pause” for just a moment and think that through.

To God, there is no darkness. None. Not even a shadow. Anywhere.

And don’t mistake what David is saying for God owning a pair of really cool “night vision” goggles. That’s not the meaning of the text. What David is doing his best to communicate in limited human language is that everything – every human body, thought, action; every atom, every quark, every nebula, star, etc. is fully exposed in God’s sight.

This is, as are all attributes of God, well beyond mere human logic, reason and intellect. (By the way, keep in mind that the existence of God doesn’t go against reason, but simply goes beyond reason. There is a difference.)

Final thoughts….

1) Jesus (God in flesh) referred to himself, among other metaphors, as the “light of the world.”

Darkness has been defined in philosophical circles as “the absence of light.”

God is 100%, pure, terrifying, holy light.

Matthew, quoting Isaiah, wrote, “the people walking in darkness have seen a great light…”. John wrote, “God is light. In him there is no darkness at all,” and “The light shines in the darkness; and the darkness can never extinguish it.”

Simply put, when Jesus entered time and space he completely spoiled Satan’s “darkness party.”

2) Because of the biblical truth above, we have hope. And that changes everything.

Whether it be hurricanes, wildfires, broken relationships, mental illness, the pain of loss, etc., – because of the Cross and the Empty Tomb – the Light has “overwhelmingly conquered.”

When Satan attacks you with pain (either physical or emotional) remember that God has provided for us a light with “infinite lumens”:  His Word.

…which is why David wrote: “Your word is a lamp to my feet, and a light to my path.”

Soli Deo Gloria, Nick