Over twenty years ago, I wrote a poem about gossip. It started with this:
Rumors and gossip, why do they have to be?
Why do they start
Where are they from
Why do they bother me?
Gossip is such a dangerous thing and unfortunately so prevalent and easy to fall into. There are different types. Sometimes it is completely intentional, with evil thoughts from the start. These are the stories intentionally shared or insinuated to intentionally bring embarrassment or harm to the subject. Few struggle to recognize this one.
However, there’s a more dangerous kind of gossip that too many of us are blind to. You’re not actually seeking to do harm to the subject… you may even be seeking a way to help them. You may actually have good intentions, but your actions lead to gossip and it ends up hurting the subject of the gossip after all.
For example, you observe someone in a bad behavior and you need advise on how to approach and help this person. In the process of seeking this advise, the identity of your concern is revealed. You have now shared this information with a third party. That is gossip. It’s possible that both you and the third party share the desire to help and all is well as you work together to help your friend. But it’s also possible that this knowledge impacts the reputation of your friend, you have unintentionally done harm.
We see something like this happen just after the flood. Ham (one of Noah’s sons) observes his father in such a drunken stupor that he had fallen asleep naked in his tent. When Ham discovers this, rather than fix the problem, he tells his brothers. His intentions could have been good (seeking help to fix it), or it good have been bad (seeking to embarrass his father), either way, he has gossiped about Noah.
“Noah began to be a man of the soil, and he planted a vineyard. He drank of the wine and became drunk and lay uncovered in his tent. And Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father and told his two brothers outside.” (Gen 9:20-22)
But his brothers solved the problem but Ham was then cursed for his behavior.
“Then Shem and Japheth took a garment, laid it on both their shoulders, and walked backward and covered the nakedness of their father. Their faces were turned backward, and they did not see their father’s nakedness. When Noah awoke from his wine and knew what his youngest son had done to him, he said, “Cursed be Canaan; a servant of servants shall he be to his brothers.”” (Gen 9:23-25)
In this case, not only Ham but his son Canaan was punished for this behavior.
Gossip is a dangerous thing. When we only think of the intentional kind of gossip, it’s easy to think we’re not guilty ourselves. But it is so easy to fall into gossip, even with good intentions, that we must be diligent to avoid it. A couple great rules of thumb to avoid gossip.
- Never talk to anyone about an issue who is not directly connected to the problem or the solution. Sometimes you need to go to a Pastor or elder seeking advise on how to solve a problem or escalating it to the next level if you’ve already tried other methods.
- Always start with the person involved. If you are honest about your desire to help, go directly to the person. In a kind and loving way, not confrontational, make it knows you are aware of the situation and seek to help.
- If you need any advise outside of a Pastor, always go to a completely unconnected party who has zero knowledge of the person.
- And of course the obvious… never use Facebook (or any other social means) to air this dirty laundry.
Remember, there is no indication if Ham had good or bad intentions, but his family was cursed none the less. Gossip is always bad, regardless of your intentions.
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