Thursday, June 23, 2011

On Gossip

How easy it is to say something wrong. The other day, someone asked me a question and I gave an answer, but after she walked away I thought about what I had said and realized that I hadn’t given her the correct answer. It wasn’t an important question. She was asking it more as small talk than anything else. This particular person picks up the trash where I work, so she speaks to many people throughout the day. Now suppose she repeats what I said. That person will also have the wrong information. That information could spread, simply because I misspoke.

We all know that gossip is wrong. We’ve heard that all our lives and yet there are so many people who engage in it. I think what happens is that people don’t see what they are doing as gossip—they’re just repeating information someone else gave them. Of course, we all know that gossip is talking about the personal details of other people’s lives. The danger in gossip isn’t so much that we’re talking about people as much as it is so easy to misspeak or to say something in a way that someone takes it differently than we intended. Just the tone of our voice—which we sometimes have trouble controlling—can change the meaning of what we say. English is very much a spoken language and how we say something is as important as what we say. A person who picks up on a mistake in our tone may repeat what we said and embellish it so that it is clear what you meant by the tone you used. Or we might hear someone say something and take it the wrong way because of the tone.

We must be very careful in how we talk about people. We must also be careful about were and to whom we talk about people. Standing in the hall at church may seem like the perfect place to for prayer for your in-laws who just can’t stand you, but there are many people who may be listening and what they will hear is that you’re fighting with your in-laws again. And what will people think about that?