Yiddish folklore offers a telling tale about gossipers and rumormongers. One such man told so many malicious untruths about a local resident that he became overwhelmed with remorse and went to his neighbor begging forgiveness.
“Sir,” the penitent man pleaded, “Please tell me how I might make amends.”
His neighbor replied, “Take these two feather pillows; go to the public square and there cut the pillows open. Wave them in the air. Then return that we may at once settle our differences.”
The rumormonger hastened to the square, and with knife in hand cut the pillows open. Feeling that redemption was near, he began to run waving the pillows, emptying them throughout the park. Satisfied with how completely he had carried out his sentence, he returned to the house of the man he formerly made his enemy.
“Have you completely emptied the feathers from the pillows?” His neighbor interrogated. “Did you broadcast them across the public square allowing the wind to carry them to places unseen?”
Feeling justified, the man affirmed, “I did just as you said.”
“Excellent!” The man exclaimed, “Now, to realize how much irreversible harm you have done to my reputation and to the reputation to my family by chatter and loose tongue, return to the square and collect all of the feathers. Only then, will you and I both find true peace.”
What is gossip? By definition, gossip is “talking idly about the affairs of others.” Generally speaking, we suppose that the “idle tale” is untrue, and that the false nature of the rumor is what makes the chatter gossip, but that is not necessarily the case. A greater part of the gossip spread by loose lips is often very true, and spoken originally in confidence by someone seeking comfort and advice. Solomon revealed the preciousness of the faithful friend when he wrote, “A talebearer revealeth secrets: but he that is of a faithful spirit concealeth the matter” (Prov, 11:13).
Paul spoke with stern rebuke of those who were, “tattlers [gossips] also and busybodies, speaking things which they ought not” (1 Tim. 5:13). Peter, with even more severe language, likened meddlesome gossip to murder and theft, “But let none of you suffer as a murderer, or as a thief, or as an evildoer, or as a busybody in other men’s matters” (1 Pt. 4:15).
When gossip is spread and rumors are passed the end results can be devastating! A person’s good name can quickly be destroyed by a simple whisper with little chance of restoration. How many political careers have been destroyed by “whispering campaigns” instigated by the loyal opposition of “friends” across the aisle! Indeed, a rumor is about as hard to “unspread” as butter.
Gossip and rumormongering will destroy friendships that have withstood the harshest storms. Solomon wrote, “A froward man soweth strife: and a whisperer separateth chief friends” (Proverbs 16:28). Truly, gossip is the spark that has caused flames of destruction to bring ruin to families, friends, communities, and even the church!
Be honest with yourself, which is most appealing to you—gossip or the gospel? As Christians do we concern ourselves with spreading the gospel or spreading rumors? Are we as anxious to hear the words of God as we are to hear the latest gossip, rumor, and innuendo? Too often it seems that we spend more time at the end of the pew whispering about the latest problem in the local congregation than we do in fervent prayer for a peaceful and loving resolution of the matter! No doubt that many of the problems facing the Lord’s church would resolve themselves if only Christians would cease adding fuel to the fires by gossip. As the wiseman said, “Where no wood is, there the fire goeth out: so where there is no talebearer, the strife ceaseth” (Proverbs 26:20).
How can we bring to an end gossip, rumor, and talebearing? Actually, there are two very effective steps we can take. First, don’t gossip! When you have the impulse to make known a thing that you have heard, whether it is true or not, simply keep your mouth closed! Or better still, say something of a positive nature that will spur godly conversation and spiritual growth in others.
Second, when someone begins to gossip, simply tell them they need to stop spreading rumors and then just walk away. Remember, no one can have a gossiping tongue unless he first has gossiping ears. Consider finally, that if someone will talk about others to you they will certainly talk about you to others.
James said, “For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away.” (James 4:14). When we consider the great work that God has set before us: of spreading the gospel of Christ; of seeking to restore the erring; of visiting the fatherless and the widows; of living a life that will bring glory to God should we, “like idle gossips, chat away our time, when we have such works as these to do, and so many of them?” The next time you begin to gossip, ask yourself the question, “Do I really want to pick up all these feathers?”
“These six things doth the LORD hate: yea, seven are an abomination unto him: A proud look, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, A heart that deviseth wicked imaginations, feet that be swift in running to mischief, A false witness that speaketh lies, and he that soweth discord among brethren” (Prov. 6:16-19).