If your ears are burning AND itching, someone is talking BADLY about you.
So goes the superstition, and there was a time when my sister and I could’ve been lab rats for a pharmaceutical company trying to cure such an otic annoyance.
We were the choice topic for a chronic gossip who made things up as she went. Boy, there’s a weapon of mass destruction, especially if the ammo is juicy. In the case of my sister and me, the gossip was fueled by the woman’s jealousy of our close relationship with a man she was involved with.
The man was our DAD, and the woman was the first person he dated after our mother passed away. Wanting Dad’s undivided attention, and viewing sis and me as threats to that, she launched a series of tall tales that would’ve had Paul Bunyon arching his eyebrows. She told them to Dad, his friends, neighbors—even his pastor.
In the end, it cost her the trust and respect of a wonderful man, as well as many others. It was a great example of why we should heed Proverbs 21:23: “He who guards his mouth and his tongue keeps himself from calamity.” (NIV)
In the movie Steel Magnolias, gossipy character Clariee Belcher said, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, come sit by me!”
In real life, there are plenty of Clariee’s, and down south there’s actually an old, unwritten permission that says: its okay to talk about someone if you sweetly precede it with “Bless her heart.”
“Bless her heart, that house is a pig-sty.”
“Oh, and bless her heart, she looks as messy as it does.”
Bless it all you want, trashing someone is still forbidden by God. “Do not go about spreading slander among your people.” (Leviticus 19:16, NIV)
Not all conversations about another person qualify as gossip. While we must take care that discussing doesn’t turn to dissing, people do speak in confidence about their concerns or frustrations over someone’s behavior, and they’re usually seeking solutions or just venting to a trusted ear. Sometimes people share information that needs to be shared. If the new neighbor dances the Hustle, in a Tarzan suit before his picture window every morning, most folks would appreciate the warning before their children inadvertently catch the show.
Handled correctly, this isn’t the same thing as frequently opening conversations with “Have you heard?”, then following with a string of blah-blah-blahs. We’ve all met these tongue-waggers, and no matter how ugly and unverified the news, they love spreading, speculating and embellishing it like a Christmas tree.
I have a friend who used to hurdle shrubbery to make sure she was at her neighborhood’s school bus stop every afternoon, even though her child was still in Pampers. “Oh, I have to be at the bus stop,” she explained. “If I’m not, I’ll be the person all the other mom’s talk about.”
People like that make me want land, not neighbors, but they do bring something to light: If they gossip TO you, you can bet your ear plugs they’ll gossip ABOUT you.
Keeping in mind Proverbs 11:13—“A gossip betrays a confidence; but a trustworthy man keeps a secret”—we need to be on guard with such friends. If we tell them something in confidence, they might forget the privacy clause includes the Internet. These talkers often draw conclusions and run wild—a two-second spat with our spouse may be reported as a World Wrestling Federation showdown and, bless our hearts, we’re probably headed for Splitsville.
Though the average blabber mouth probably doesn’t intend to ruin lives, the Bible does catalog gossip as sin (Romans 1: 29). It can hurt the victim and come back and kick the gossiper in the pants. If we’ve got friends who hardly breathe between tid-bits, let’s give them the scoop on what the Bible says about it.
If the truth doesn’t put on the brakes, we can at least wreck their fun by countering every negative comment with a positive response, then changing the subject and applying Proverbs 26:20. Of gossip, it says “without wood a fire goes out.” (NIV)
Hopefully, they’ll get their tongues under control. After all, though God isn’t participating in their gossip, He IS listening to every word they say.
You know, that info is too important to keep to ourselves. Let’s pass it along, and repeat it as much as we need to.
Donna, I stumbled across this website due to an article that you had written. It was on another website, and grabbed my attention. You do have a wonderful way with words, a way that captivates the reader. Thank you so much. Jessica Marquez