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A True Gossip
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“Think of every word as a gift. Open each one up and use it for good. Share words of encouragement, love, praise, depth and wisdom. It’s your choice. Choose life.”  Lori Palatnik

Imagine listening to your pastor announce from the pulpit that you were a true gossip. Would you take it as a compliment, hang your head in shame, or flare up in anger?

Gossip, as defined by Walter Winchell, is “the art of saying nothing in a way that leaves practically nothing unsaid.” Another source identifies gossip as “a chatty talk”. Take a moment and see if you can you identify the real meaning of gossip.

Gossip is:

T  F   a friend or neighbor

T  F   one who answers for a child in baptism; a godfather

T  F   a tippling companion

T  F   one who runs from house to house, tattling and telling news

According to Webster’s 1828 dictionary, gossip has over the course of time, meant each of the above.

If the first definition was the one your pastor had in mind, to be a gossip would be a compliment indeed but times have changed. Currently, the latter definition is most correct.

We are exposed to gossip, one of the world’s most destructive habits, practically everywhere we go and in much that we see. Though it has no true benefits and in fact hurts everyone involved, it’s the rare person that hasn’t caught themselves either listening to or repeating some form of gossip. Why do we do it? Simply put: habit and/or unconscious rationalization.

It makes me feel better about myself when I know other people are doing worse stuff than I am. I feel important when people want to listen to my “news”. It makes conversation. Everybody does it.

Somehow, we who are so quick to believe what we hear about others, so accepting of news in the media, and so ready to assume the worst regarding another’s actions, actually allow ourselves to believe that what we say about someone else won’t really matter. But gossip, like a fired bullet, cannot be reversed, even with an apology.

Breaking the gossip cycle takes effort but the results are worth it. We can begin by becoming aware, by asking ourselves:  How much gossip do I read or listen to? How often does gossip roll off my lips? What does this interaction teach my children about the way I value myself, value them, and others?

Key in the battle with gossip is the use of tact. When we concentrate on protecting the other’s sense of self while showing them alternative ways to engage in conversation, they can appreciate rather than resent what we say.

When gossip comes up in conversation

  • Gently comment that you feel… sort of uncomfortable talking about someone when they’re not present.
  • Shift the conversation by inserting something positive about the person being spoken of.
  • Offer a plausible explanation for seemingly negative behaviour.
  • Totally change the subject.
  • If nothing else works, kindly excuse yourself and leave.

As you model for your children ways to deal with gossip, you will begin to see the world in a very different way. “Suddenly,” as Lori Palatnik relates, “a sense of control is embraced, self-respect is enhanced, and the respect of others is earned. Relationships heal, positive role modeling is in place, and peace is in the air.”

Though breaking habits is hard work we needn't give up.  Beginning in our homes, we can change the world one word at a time.

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By Rene Ammundsen. Copyright © 2012 by GraceNotes. All rights reserved. Use of this material is subject to usage guidelines.

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