By Sister alies therese

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” (NAB, John 1:1) That God spoke one word is a clue for us because folks who babble and gossip are insecure, undermining and silly. I have to put it that way because it describes most of us!

In Proverbs and other places in Scripture we can learn. Consider in Proverbs 13:2 “the good acquire a taste for helpful conversation; bullies push and shove their way through life.” (Peterson) I can only hope to discover how to learn to speak the simplest and most direct and loving words as I mature. How shall my words not bully anyone, how can I speak with the ‘tongue of angels’? How can I learn to speak the truth? Can I speak in love?

Sister alies therese

Gossip is something that gets under my skin. Yours? Rumors and tales that particularly feature my neighbors or friends really get my goat. Proverbs again reminds us of this: “troublemakers start fights, gossip breaks up friendships.” (16:28, Peterson) “Don’t talk about your neighbors behind their backs – no slander or gossip please.” (24:28, Peterson).

Not gossiping is not just ‘good behavior’; it is also quite practical. “The person who lies gets caught; the person who spreads rumors is ruined.” (NAB, Proverbs 19:9) Rumors that are spread on internet, for example, about teens being fat, or ugly, or indeed promiscuous, have ended in suicide and at least eating disorders.

“The words of the wicked kill; the speech of the upright saves.” (12:8, Peterson) Political discourse is damaged by the passing of lies and rumor; the public square is littered with persons executed behind lies and false witnesses. Gossip indeed is a killer.

Did you hear the one about? And then off it goes. Some bits of truth are usually embedded within, but the rest implies a certain knowledge, certain power, certain insight into something that is just not true. One day it will be about you.

Sharon Schweitzer, an international etiquette expert points this out “Talk badly about people too often and your reputation of being a rumormonger will make others stop trusting you.” You might answer, however, what I found in an old Reader’s Digest: “I’m not a gossip. I’m a verbal documenter of other people’s dramas!” Or as to say…I have a right to pass on what I see and hear. Think so?

Another old Reader’s Digest mentioned “You can’t believe everything you hear but you can repeat it.” Perhaps you don’t know the difference between truth and lies? Zip yer lip, especially in this case! “Watch the way you talk…say only what helps. Each word is a gift.” (Peterson, Eph 4:29).

I was impressed with psychiatrist Dr. Ned Hallowell, who defined gossip as a “sharing information-real or imagined-without permission.” He also indicated how gossip is emotional sadism because “people tend to take pleasure in someone else’s misery and delight that it’s not happening to them!” Gossip and rumors steal a person’s dignity, they put another person at their lowest where they often have no way of restoration. If you want to be part of another’s destruction, try gossip. “Evil people relish malicious conversation; the ears of liars itch for dirty gossip.” (Peterson, Proverbs 17:4)

Rather become what Proverbs also suggests “Irresponsible talk makes a real mess of things; but reliable reporter is a healing presence.” (Peterson, Proverbs 13:17) Let’s go for that because “gossip is like a black hole – once we get sucked in it’s hard to escape.” (letslearnslang.com)

Children often have the right question, if not the right answer. When asked, a dad defined a gossiper for his son as a “a person with a profound sense of rumor.” A little girl, when asked how she knew she was loved said “when people say your name, you know it’s safe in their mouth.” Are words and tales safe in your mouth?

“Though some tongues just love the taste of gossip, those who follow Jesus have better use of language than that … thanksgiving is our dialect.” (Peterson, Ephesians 5:4)


PS: My newest collection of short stories 27 Tall Tales will be out soon!

(Sister alies therese is a canonically vowed hermit with days formed around prayer and writing.)