Gossip & Negativity: What kind of communicator are you?
I remember that, in high school, a “normal” conversation at the lunch table, at a party, or at a friend’s locker was about someone else.
The “subject line” was rarely to do with the state of one’s soul, the deeper thoughts they’d been having, or the joy they’d been experiencing. No, a typical conversation began something like, Hey, have you heard about so-and-so?
I am in no way demeaning the friendships that I had the blessing of partaking in, many of which I still do. I was blessed by lifelong friendships of soul-care, deep things, and joy talks that began in high school, and existed that way in high school (Shoutout to Daniella, Chloe, and Sammy, among many others).
I am, however, making a comment on what I perceived to be the cultural norm about what a conversation should look like. And I absolutely contributed to these norms more than I wish I did.
I think we can all relate to gossip. “People-talk.” Slander. Rumour-spreading, and rumour-listening-to. It can be harmless, right? If it’s just a conversation with my best friend and it’s between the two of us, or an off-hand, “I heard so-and-so became a drug dealer after high school” to a colleague, it’s not a big deal, right?
Well, this morning, I was finishing up my personal study in the book of Luke, and a few verses in Chapter 23 stung me like never before.
In this chapter, the people of Jerusalem who have witnessed Jesus have accused Him of subverting their rules, and take him to Pontius Pilate, governor of Judea.
Pilate asked Jesus, “Are you the king of the Jews?”LUKE 23:3-12 NIV
“You have said so,” Jesus replied.
Then Pilate announced to the chief priests and the crowd, “I find no basis for a charge against this man.”
But they insisted, “He stirs up the people all over Judea by his teaching. He started in Galilee and has come all the way here.”
On hearing this, Pilate asked if the man was a Galilean. When he learned that Jesus was under Herod’s jurisdiction, he sent him to Herod, who was also in Jerusalem at that time.
When Herod saw Jesus, he was greatly pleased, because for a long time he had been wanting to see him. From what he had heard about him, he hoped to see him perform a sign of some sort. He plied him with many questions, but Jesus gave him no answer. The chief priests and the teachers of the law were standing there, vehemently accusing him. Then Herod and his soldiers ridiculed and mocked him. Dressing him in an elegant robe, they sent him back to Pilate. That day Herod and Pilate became friends—before this they had been enemies.
I could not get the phrasing of this final verse, verse 12, out of my head. Luke, in his gospel writing, emphasized that Herod and Pilate became friends the day that Herod chose to doubt and ridicule Jesus. The same day that Pilate was trying to decide whether he himself believed that Jesus was the Son of God.
Herod and Pilate bonded over the ridicule of the Son of God.
Have you ever bonded with someone over the ridicule, put-down of, or collective dislike toward another person?
I was disgusted by Herod and Pilate… and then the Holy Spirit used the verse to convict me of my familiarity with their friendship to show me three things about the communal slander of others.
- Friendship that is held together by gossip and being caught up on the happenings of other people is not friendship. If you can discern friendships like this in your own life, it doesn’t necessarily mean that either of you are, at your core, gossipy people. In fact, I would argue that without the guidance of the Holy Spirit, we are ALL prone to this kind of sin. Try to reach out to these friends and be candid about the intentions of your friendship. Apologize for not asking more about that friend’s own life, and engaging in gossip and jokes about others instead. Vow together to engage in meaningful and compassionate conversations.
- Feelings of “bonding” that arise from talking negativity are lies. This is a false sense of bonding, because, in its very nature, gossip is something that breaks bonds. Imagine becoming friends with someone because of your communal ridicule of the God who created you, who purposed you, and who you will stand face to face with at the end of time, like Herod and Pilate. We are never called to speak deception or ridicule over others, but rather truth and life.
- Mocking is different from speaking genuine concern– and the difference is in your heart. We might share a rumour under the false pretence of just “sharing concern for a friend” with someone else, while knowing in our souls that our intention is not one of compassion. There are, of course, circumstances that demand sharing a concern for a friend with someone else, but both the language and tone of that conversation will look and feel very different from those of gossip.
God, thank-you for sending your Son Jesus to die on the cross in my place. Help me to bring praise to Your Name and Life by speaking truth and love to and about other people– people You love and breathed life in to. Give me Your eyes, Jesus, to see others the way You do. Amen.