Sisterhood, Pt. 2: Extinguishing the Bitter Flame of Gossip

I recently went on a rant about the necessity of grown-up girl friendships, and some ways to reach out and make friends in an authentic, vulnerable way. If you’re already uncomfortable, feel free to leave the building, cause it’s about to get even more real in here.

Today’s rant is about an issue that is rampant among female friend groups. A sin that is so often brushed aside because “everyone does it.” Because really, is it that big of a deal?

I’m talking about gossip.

 

As I sit here in my local coffee shop typing this, two young ladies a couple tables over are loudly conversing about a mutual friend. Apparently, this friend drinks too much and sleeps around, and—gasp!—fails to clean her car regularly, among a laundry list of other failures.

I fear that all too often, this is the way we treat the women we call our friends. Out of their presence, we rake them through the mud and make Tuesday morning chatter of their shortcomings. These ladies I overheard in the coffee shop laid into their friend for a good half hour at least. Perhaps the saddest part was they even went into detail about things they “should” say to her but never have. Because why actually offer a friend constructive criticism wrapped in grace when we can just talk about her behind her back?

These girls might be an extreme example, but don’t we all do that in some capacity? Some of us even award ourselves an honorary psychology degree and diagnose our so-called friends with various issues and disorders. We fool ourselves into thinking these trash talking fests are somehow productive, but the reality is we are only feeding our own egos and digging a deeper rift between ourselves and the women we should be connecting with, loving and giving grace.

Gossip divides.

Okay, so gossip isn’t productive—but is it actually harmful?

What the Bible has to say about gossip is heartbreaking to those of us seeking to deepen our relationships and follow the example of Christ’s love in our lives. Proverbs 16:28 says

“A perverse person stirs up conflict,
and a gossip separates close friends.”

Did you catch that? Gossip divides us. It takes any semblance of friendship that we’ve built and throws a grenade onto it. Yikes.

Ladies, we need each other. We need the support and love of our community of women to help us navigate the ups and downs of this life. Sadly, we will never successfully cultivate this community if we habitually tear each other down behind the scenes. Our relationships will never be wholeheartedly based on trust and integrity if we can’t be confident that our sisters are truly on our side. And we can never reach a level of authenticity that fosters freedom and unity if we hold onto the habit of gossip. We just can’t. Trust and harmony are in opposition to gossip.

We are called to speak life.

Ephesians 4:29 warns, “Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment so that it will give grace to those who hear.” Basically, if you ain’t got nothing nice to say, don’t say anything at all. Our words should be for edification—originally translated as “building up of the soul.” Look me straight in the face and tell me gossiping is somehow building up your friend’s soul. You won’t convince me, because all gossip does is tear down, divide and destroy.

Side note: That is not to say we shouldn’t offer constructive criticism to our close friends in whom we’ve established confidence and trust. Iron sharpens iron, absolutely. But that is in such a different context from gossip that it’s a topic for another post. We all know there is a stark difference between offering our friends constructive criticism and gossiping about them.

Our words hold tremendous power—either to build up or destroy. Proverbs 18:21 even says “Death and life are in the power of the tongue…” Let’s use our words to speak life.

Without wood a fire goes out.

What’s that? Everyone else is doing it? I know. In school, workplaces, families, friend groups—yes, even churches are full of gossipers. Refusing to participate in gossip might honestly make you the odd woman out.

Do it anyway. Challenge the status quo. Refuse to engage in the gossip, and see what happens. That kind of boldness is contagious. When you turn the conversation around to something positive and life-giving, you might be surprised how quickly people change their tune. Proverbs 26:20 says

“Without wood a fire goes out;
without a gossip a quarrel dies down.”

Gossip can only survive if we allow it to. Snuff it out, refuse to reignite it, and it dies. Let’s extinguish gossip in our lives and instead use our words for building up our sisters and creating an environment of trust, unity and grace.

Love, Chelsea

To catch up read the last post on sisterhood and finding real friends here.

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