“Want to know a secret?”; “You’ll never guess what I found out!”; “Have I got something to tell you!”; “Did you know..?”  What do these lines all have in common? They are all great openers for that harmful verbal narrative disguised as factual buzz, in short, GOSSIP! 

The word 'Gossip' can be defined as someone who reveals personal information about another person without their consent or knowledge; rumor and/or report(s) of an intimate nature. It can also be defined as follows; “Gossip, n.: Hearing something you like about someone you don't” (Earl Wilson).

The old adage of “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all,” has been replaced by “If you can’t say anything nice, whisper!” Nowadays, discreetness is many times ignored and some people no longer whisper, they shout with glee and pride when they gossip! People can’t wait to tell others about the latest ‘news.’

The dishonor of gossiping has somehow been dignified. In a 2005 article written for the New York Times, the writer declared “Have You Heard? Gossip Turns Out to Serve a Purpose.”  Well, I’ll say it does, it serves a major purpose for the newspapers, magazines, websites and televisions shows devoted solely to gossip, the so called ‘purpose’ is money! Try this experiment; for one week count the number of television programs, news and other programs, and the magazines that promote gossip. Sometimes it will be difficult because people will discuss topics, and other people, as if what they are saying is factual, when in reality, it is pure gossip. You will be surprised at the stories being touted as true when in reality, they are rumor. Magazines pay a great deal of money for pictures of celebrities, only to write their own (mostly made-up) stories to go with them. How many times have you read that a celebrity’s marriage is breaking-up, only to find out that it’s not true.    

Gossip is destructive and cruel.  Those on the giving end of gossip fail to empathize with their subjects and seem to take pleasure in someone else’s misfortune, whether true or not.  While those on the receiving end are usually blindsided by the news that they are the subject of hurtful rumors and they have little or no recourse to set the record straight.

One of the stinging components of gossip is that a majority of the time it is false, and even those times when it is true, it is revealed in such a way so as to be destructive.  That, however, doesn’t really seem to bother the majority of gossipers. For whatever reason, their conscious fails to plague them and people seem to feel little or no regret or culpability.  No, these scandalmongers continue to spread noxious rumors with no regard for anyone but themselves.  

Why do so many people enjoy gossip? Let me rephrase that, why do so many people enjoy spreading gossip? (I have yet to meet anyone who enjoys being the subject of it.) How can it make a person feel good to say something bad about someone else? Do the people who revel in gossip have such low self-worth that they feel better about themselves and their situations when they hear or spread malicious reports? Or, could it be that these gossipers harbor so much jealously, loathing, or hatred for other people that they enjoy spreading nasty and damaging rumors. Somehow, another’s misfortune, whether real or imagined, makes people feel better about their own circumstances.

Okay, so your spouse has a drinking problem, but you’re going to spread the news about the cute blonde woman down the street, that all the neighborhood men (including yours) check-out, you’re going to tell everyone that her husband is cheating. How do you know? Well because you saw him getting into a his car with a pretty young girl…never mind that eventually you will find out the pretty young girl is actually his younger sister visiting from college.  For now, he is cheating and it makes you feel better about your circumstances. So your husband may be an alcoholic, but at least he is not cheating! (Not yet anyway.)

Then there are those who make money off of gossip, it is a lucrative business. So many people seem to thrive on, or are addicted to it.  For whatever reason, those habitual devotees seem to feel better when they read or hear about a celebrity’s pain or calamity.  It is the same mindset as when they gossip about someone they know to make themselves feel better about their situations. People eat up gossip and immediately look for their next fix. Is gossip somehow less evasive and less vicious when it’s about a celebrity? For some reason, it is acceptable in our society to say almost anything about someone if they have some notoriety.  Whether it is actors, musicians, politicians, or anyone in the spotlight, people are talking.  

Whether it is on television, in print, or in person, if someone is telling you an unsubstantiated “truth” about someone else, you need to recognize it as gossip, and see it for what it is: “Idle tales” (1913 Webster’s Dictionary). 

For those of you who enjoy reading the gossip magazines, or participating, either passively or otherwise in gossip, take a few minutes to read some of the things the Bible has to say about gossip. Here’s one: “But no one can tame the tongue; it is a restless evil and full of deadly poison.  With it we bless our Lord and Father; and with it we curse men, who have been made in the likeness of God; from the same mouth come both blessing and cursing.  My brethren, these things ought not to be this way” (James 3:8-10). 

When you think about it, a perniciously salacious tale about a celebrity, or anyone for that matter, is about as useful to you as yesterday’s lottery numbers. Take a look at your friends, do they engage in gossip? If they do, chances are one day they will be gossiping about you! But, if it is you who is guilty of gossip, find out why.  If you can’t say anything nice, don’t whisper, say a prayer!

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