Can you talk about someone behind their back without it being labeled as gossip?

000_6910RetouchCan you talk about someone behind their back without it being labeled as gossip?

For the longest time I thought the answer was a definite ‘no’. While speaking the truth about someone I would often feel a strange ping of guilt.

“Well, we better stop talking,” one of us would invariably say, “We don’t want to gossip.”

Where did we inherit our understanding of gossip? The church: according to author Dean VanDruff. In his article “Gossip and Christian Scripture” he says:

“Our man-made religious tradition defines gossip incorrectly as ‘talking behind other people’s backs.’ But let’s think this through. If true, God would be the chief gossiper, telling tales of Pharaoh and Ahab and Jezebel and hundreds of others without their permission; the apostles and early disciples used gossip to spread the gospel; and the Bible is then a book of gossip in general.”

Interestingly, we never feel bad when we talk nicely about people behind their backs. But if it’s negative we label it ‘gossip.’

He goes on to say:

“….the religious tradition about ‘gossip’ is basically ‘damage control’ for sinful leaders. It is ‘image management’ via trying to foster an environment of fear by stifling normal conversation in the body.”

You may find his line of reasoning too extreme. However, it did get me thinking about all the wrongs, hurts, and misdeeds we let slip by (especially in the church) because we don’t want to ‘gossip.’

The dictionary defines gossip as: idle talk or rumor, especially about the personal or private affairs of others:

However, our friend who inspired this piece defines it as:

“… a ‘false witness’ of slander. Gossip and slander orbit around each other. Slander is the lie, and gossip the spreading of lies. Attractive gossip will not always be completely incorrect–it may well have some bearing on the truth. But it will always have a perverted ‘twist’ to it that is the lure.

What about Matthew 18:15-17 where we are told to take up our grievances with our brother and bring witnesses if he refuses to listen? If we fail to do this but the information we hold is true, then are we guilty of gossiping, or of simply failing to follow this commandment?

What do you think?

Jodie Stevens

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