Saying “no” to gossip can bring rejection, p 2
We can all identify with the allure of gossip and complaining. I grew up in a small town where it seemed everybody knew (and was in) everybody’s business. I remember sitting at my grandparents’ table listening to them rehearse the faults of others. It was done with lots of humor, which only made it harder to recognize as unhealthy.
We’re all made for the “shared life” of authentic community. But the strength of community can be undermined by gossip and complaining just as much as physically destructive behavior.
Here are some practical ways to build new patterns of relating if you struggle with gossip and/or complaining.
Look intently at the perspective God gives in the Bible.
A gossip betrays a confidence; so avoid a man [or woman] who talks too much Proverbs 20:19
All day long I have stretched out My hands to a people unyielding and disobedient and self-willed [to a faultfinding, contrary, and contradicting people]. Romans 10:21 Amplified
Rather, let our lives lovingly express truth [in all things, speaking truly, dealing truly, living truly]. Enfolded in love, let us grow up in every way and in all things into Him Who is the Head, [even] Christ (the Messiah, the Anointed One). Ephesians 4:15 Amplifed
Recognize the subtle ways gossip is expressed
I.e., under the guise of “being concerned” needing to share “how I feel” or a “prayer request.”
Give yourself to the ways God transforms character.
Spiritual formation occurs through learning new practiced habits through the empowering presence of Jesus.
Dallas Willard explains,
Spiritual formation in the tradition of Jesus Christ is the process of transformation of the inmost dimension of the human being, the heart, which is the same as the spirit or will. It is being formed (really, transformed) in such a way that its natural expression comes to be the deeds of Christ done in the power of Christ.
The progression of spiritual formation is outlined in various passages of the New Testament. It is most fully spelled out in II Peter 1: “Now since you have become partakers of the divine nature,” the writer says, “applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge; and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness; and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love.” (vv. 4-7)
Hang out with people who have learned to say “no” to gossip and complaining – we are apprenticed to right actions – through relationship and example.
Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm. Proverbs 13:20
Do not associate with a man given to anger; Or go with a hot-tempered man, Or you will learn his ways And find a snare for yourself. Proverbs 22:24-25
As the Apostle Paul said “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.” 1 Corinthians 11:1
A young guy was in small group reading the teachings of Jesus and recognized the stark contrast of his own behavior and negative perspective of others. He felt undone, honestly shared about the struggle and asked for prayer. Over the course of several months he practiced praying before reacting (right when the thoughts came into his mind) and noticed significant change…, more love, less judgment, new habits. That’s the way of Jesus!
- He will put you in a place where gossip and complaining happen (where else can we learn?)
- He will make you aware of it and give you a level of discomfort (which will become your cue if you keep responding)
- He will test you by allowing you to experience rejection and misunderstanding when you say “no”
Finally, be kind
Saying “no” to gossip and complaining can be done in an unhelpful way, almost like you are slapping someone’s hand. Making others feel as though you are better than them or being harsh is unhelpful. The tone of humility and kindness, together with standing your ground is essential.
Recently I interrupted a person going down the trail of gossip by sharing something positive about the other person. That only served to fuel the fire and they reacted “you don’t really know what a jerk they are…” Then I asked if we could pray for the person. They seemed even more agitated, as if to say “why would we do that, unless you mean praying God will rain down fire on them…” Finally, I had to ask “do you think they are beyond hope?” The conversation ended awkwardly and I left wondering if I’d done the right thing. But later they called to apologize and say how they needed to let go of their issues…
Not all situations end that well. We all need to be reminded to let go of issues and say “no” to gossip and complaining.