Interesting. But I think there is much more to gossip than Matt’s definition: “bearing bad news behind someone’s back out of a bad heart.”
I think that sharing someone’s good news behind their back can be gossip, whether out of a bad heart or not. Maybe the five different heart-level motivators he talks about would shed some light, but I think the root of this is not so much jealousy as it is brokenness and shame — the whispered evil of the “I am not…” lie that they have believed about themselves — that looks to feel better by focusing on the lives of others rather that let the love of Jesus heal their own broken heart. As C. Baxter Kruger says, we tend to have the lid to our own “garbage can” duct taped down, lest anyone see us for who we really are and reject us. What we need to see is that Jesus is already in there with us in our mess — and he’s brought his Father and the Holy Spirit with him. Our darkness is not dark to him…we have nothing to fear from our loving Triune God who has already dealt with sin in and through Jesus. We just don’t seem to be able to believe it…and so we cry, at best: “I believe. Help my unbelief!” At worst, we are overwhelmed with guilt and shame — unwilling to receive the adoption Jesus died to make real for us…struggling under the burden of the expanded lie that whispers: “I am not ___________, but I can be if I _________________.” So very sad….
I have become persuaded that a lot that passes for “prayer requests” in group meetings is actually a form of gossip. I link it to what I call a culture of voyeuristic pride — we make other people’s business our business because we want to be seen as “in the know”. I’m all for transparency, but we have to be self-disclosing in real relationships — not “spiritual journalists” looking for a “scoop.” I suggest to my children, and those in my sphere of influence, that we don’t want to have a conversation about someone that we’re not willing to have with them. Or that they have not specifically asked us to share on their behalf. I tell my children that we need to let people tell their own stories so that they can provide the proper context — and clarifying questions can be asked, if necessary.
So, if we hear something about someone, we need to ask the person telling the story to please stop speculating behind their back and go directly to the source. Then we need to pray and ask the Holy Spirit to give us wisdom and discernment as to whether it is even appropriate to get involved. If we believe God is asking us to intervene, then we need to find a way to approach the person and gently share what we heard and ask for clarification — face to face. This usually requires a level of relationship that can bear speaking and hearing the truth in love, which is not all that common, unfortunately.
Everything comes down to right relationships, doesn’t it? First, our relationship with Father, in Jesus, through the Holy Spirit … and then, out of the security of God’s love, with those around us. And nothing gets in the way of relationships like guilt and shame and condemnation and judgment. Lord, have mercy — give us eyes to see your Good News!
Thanks for letting me ramble on. Glad to see some light shed on this shadowy area.