Why why why do people think it’s OK to tell someone who is the object of gossip that she must change her behavior??
This is a pet peeve of mine. My whole life, I have been unfairly judged and gossiped about, and the near universal response I’ve gotten is: Change Your Behavior.
Don’t want to be nicknamed “Skank”? Stop dating so many boys. (I was a virgin, dated only Christian boys, and never went past French kissing, but hey, yeah, it was my fault).
Don’t want to be considered a slut? Stop talking about sex. (Still a virgin, just very educated about sex. My education was considered evidence that I was a slut).
Don’t want to be prohibited from serving in your church? Denounce gay people and stop volunteering with the sexual assault hotline. After all, only a pro-choice person would be willing to help victims of sexual assault. And by being friends with gay people and NOT condemning their lifestyle, I was damaging straight people’s marriages. Or something.
Don’t want to be barred from preaching? Stop being such a feminist.
Look, people who follow Christ, gossip is a SIN. And frankly, some of the most egregious and disgusting gossip I’ve heard is spread by groups of men, so please, gentlemen, pay attention.
Effective ways of dealing with gossip:
1. Stop it. There are many ways to do this.
- Change the subject.
- Ask the gossiper what the source is.
- Challenge the statement. A simple “I don’t believe that” will do.
- Confront the gossiper privately and tell them to shut their fat mouths. You may want to avoid saying “fat mouth,” but I won’t tell on you if you secretly think it.
- Find the ultimate source of the gossip and confront him/her.
2. Ignore it.
- Walk away from the conversation
- Don’t hang out with those people any more.
Ineffective ways of dealing with gossip:
1. Spread it.
Don’t repeat it, regardless of your reason. Asking for confirmation or denial from anyone else is just spreading the gossip.
2. Tell the subject to change her behavior.
- First of all, don’t spread that nastiness.
- No matter what s/he did, telling her to change her behavior based on the gossip is making a false accusation, and God is pretty clear that false accusations are a no-no.
- Do not get “the truth of the matter” from the subject and THEN tell him/her to change behavior. The sin issue is NOT the subject’s behavior, the sin issue is the GOSSIP.
3. Avoid the victim because “there’s no smoke without fire.” I’m here to tell you, there is absolutely smoke without fire.
4. Justify gossiping with noble reasons.
- No prayer request validates gossip.
- No mistreatment of another person validates gossip. (If you have knowledge of a crime, reporting the crime is not gossip).
- No healing of a relationship validates gossip.
The rule I follow in my own life regarding gossip is this: If I wouldn’t say something to a person’s face, I wouldn’t say it behind his back. That doesn’t mean I don’t accidentally reveal secrets or information. And yes, there are times when I knowingly gossip about another person, because I am a sinful person and sometimes I do bad things.
As far as when I hear gossip? I generally change the subject or challenge the source. Again, I’m not perfect. Sometimes I get curious. Sometimes I just feel mean spirited.
There are three reasons why gossip fires me up so much.
1. It’s harmful to sexual assault survivors. Any discussion of sexual assault tends to come back to slander of the survivors. What was she wearing? How was she acting about the rapist? Is it in the survivor’s character to have ____ kind of sex?
2. It’s seen as a female sin. Women are seen as the gossipers. We are taught how to avoid gossip, and labeled busybodies. Yet as I mentioned earlier in this post, some of the nastiest, foulest gossip I have ever heard came from groups of men discussing women. But I have yet to hear any man address gossip amongst men.
3. There is no defense from gossip. Anyone can say anything about you at any time without your knowledge, and often the gossip harms you even if it is completely baseless.