Do You Want To Know A Secret?

gossipingWe were in Santa Fe recently and we were discussing with friends art galleries that the kids would enjoy going to. Our friends mentioned an art gallery as being the best one for kids. What did I say? “Oh I think that would be a great place!” No, that is not what I said. I told our friends about the time I was at an event with the owner of this gallery and they got totally hammered. That’s what I shared. I gossiped about this person. They sinned and 12 years after it happened I sinned by repeating this negative information. They may be sober today. They may have been going through a hard time. They may have simply made some sort of mistake with alcohol. Or they may be an alcoholic. Who knows, they could have even been asking me for help. So, instead of recognizing that this art gallery is probably the best one for kids, I was a chatter box. I was funny. I was talkative. I was a gossip. I sinned. AND just for context, I was having this conversation about 30 minutes after going to confession. Nice!

“For the man who recognizes his sins has taken control of his tongue, while the chatterer has yet to discover himself as he should.” St. John Climacus.

Ask yourself, “Have I shared negative information (true or not) about someone to another person?” Am I guilty of gossiping?  Gossip has destroyed families, businesses and churches. The tongue can do damage. Gossip is a sin that is often overlooked because “everyone does it.”

Gossip…

  • is the sharing of negative information about another person, organization, group of people
  • is the same whether the information is true or false
  • is when the speaker or the hearer are not directly involved in resolving an issue
  • often masquerades as concern
  • is derived from the idea of “whispering.”
  • according to the dictionary, “gossip” means “To indulge in idle talk or rumors about others; spreading of sensational stories.” The dictionary defines it as “Idle, or malicious talk about others.”
  • is one of the most dangerous sins because it is so subtle and ambiguous — many are unable to recognize it.
  • exists whenever persons “talk about others” in less than a favorable way.

Slander…

  • is a word that shares the same origin as “Devil.” The Bible says that Satan is called the “accuser of the brethren” (Rev. 12:10). Are you an accuser of the brethren too? If so, even though it may not be your intention, you are doing what the Devil does.
  • according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary means “malicious talk”
  • is to spread damaging information
  • is to defame; to speak ill of.” Is it no wonder where slander derives it’s name? In fact

Be on alert against gossip whenever you hear of “secret information” being circulated, or if you hear anyone else’s name is used in a conversation.

According to St. John Climacus, the whole body needs to be in complete submission to God. For example, we must control our eyes from lust, the stomach from gluttony, and the ears from listening to gossip. In the same way, the tongue must be restrained. This view is definitely the view of scripture. St. James warns, “If any one considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is useless.” James 1:26

St. James compares the tongue to the rudder of a ship. It is small and yet it can move big things. It is like a match. We say something small and can burn the entire forest down.

Scriptural Evidence

  • Do not go about spreading slander among your people. Do not do anything that endangers your neighbor’s life. I am the Lord. Leviticus 19:16
  • A gossip betrays a confidence, but a trustworthy man keeps a secret. Proverbs 11:13
  • Without wood a fire goes out; without gossip a quarrel dies down. Proverbs 26:20
  • Likewise the soldiers asked him, saying,  ‘And what shall we do?’  So he said to them,  ‘Do not intimidate anyone or accuse falsely, and be content with your wages. Luke 3:14
  • They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips. Romans 1:29
  • For I fear, lest, when I come, I shall not find you such as I wish, and that I shall be found by you such as you do not wish; lest there be contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, backbitings, whisperings, conceits, tumults. 2 Corinthians 12:20.
  • Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. Ephesians 4:29
  • Do not speak evil of one another, brethren. He who speaks evil of a brother and judges his brother, speaks evil of the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. There is one Lawgiver, who is able to save and destroy. Who are you to judge another? James 4:11,12.
  • Besides, they get into the habit of being idle and going about from house to house. And not only do they become idlers, but also gossips and busybodies, saying things they ought not to. 1 Timothy 5:13

Where does gossip come from? TALKATIVENESS “When words are many, sin is not absent, but he who holds his tongue is wise.” Proverbs 10:19 If talkativeness can endanger the soul it follows that silence can offer healing and renewal. Saint Issac the Syrian said, “Silence is the language of Heaven.”

It is not that we must take a vow of silence. But, we must think before we speak. We must remember the words of Christ: “I tell you, on the day of judgment men will render an account for every careless word they utter; for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” Matthew 12:36-37

What can we do?

  1. We should not always think about what we should say next.
  2. We should look at our motives for speaking. Are we wanting to speak in order to slander another? Or to make ourselves look better? Or are we wanting to say something that will show how intelligent or spiritual we are? It is important to consider motives before we speak.
  3. We must also refuse to listen to slander or accusations. St. John teaches us to spend more time looking for the good in others, ignoring the weaknesses and always remember that we too are capable of the same sins. Another way of overcoming sin of slander is to look for the good in the one who committed the particular sin. We must look for the good in others and not fault find. Not only must we refrain from speaking slander, but we must avoid listening to it also. “Do not allow human respect to get in your way when you hear someone slandering his neighbor. Instead, say to him: “Brother, stop it! I do worse things every day, so how can I criticize him?” You accomplish two things when you say this. You heal yourself and you heal your neighbor with one bandage.” St. John Climacus.
  4. We do not have the responsibility to inform others of someone’s sin. Prayer for the fallen person is what is needed.
  5. Don’t pass on talk about others unless you have at least made the effort to go to the source. Make certain of the facts.
  6. If someone gossips to you about someone else, ask, “What would you like me to do?”
  7. Never criticize another person, except to their own face with an intent to help. Criticism can never be “constructive” if expressed to anyone else.
  8. You probably remember the old saying: “If you can’t say something good about others, don’t say anything at all.”
  9. “Moreover if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone…” (Matthew 18:15). 

  10. If you have something against someone, you should go to that person, tell your grievance, and hear his/her side of the story. It may be that you were wrong. Thus, you will not only clear up your misunderstanding, but you will have a chance to apologize as well. On the other hand, if you were correct and the person’s words or actions have in some way caused you or another harm, then that person is given the opportunity to repent.
  11. When you find yourself gossiping, repent at once so that God will forgive you of this terrible, destructive sin. Gossip has its roots in jealousy, hate and self-pride. As with hate, you remove the person who is the object of your gossip from the love you should be showing (1 John 2:9,11; 3:15). As a result, you are murdering the person in your heart.
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8 Comments

Filed under Flames of Wisdom, Orthodox Christianity

8 responses to “Do You Want To Know A Secret?

  1. Robert

    I agree Father, unfortunately, I’m a journalist, which forces to walk that fine line between gossip and information. I have written flattering and unflattering stories about people and situations.

    I initially left the business because they were asking me to compromise my integrity for the financial gains of the publisher(s).

    Now as a Christians, how do we keep from crossing the line into gossip vs. information?

    PS

    I have you beat on gossiping after confession. I THINK I made it to the Narthex.

  2. Lenore

    8 days. Plus, all the rest of them.

  3. Joan

    Preach it Father James, what a good reminder as well as exhortation to examine my speech. Thanks!

  4. Fr. Philip Vreeland

    Dear Father,

    Your narrative is touching; however, the grammar needs some work. You begin by identifying the main character as “the owner.” You go on to refer to this character as “they.” “Owner” is singular; “they” is plural. “They” needs to be changed to either “he” or “she” to make sense.

  5. mike havens

    I think it is essential that we reinforce this with our kids.

  6. Photina

    I have been guilty millions of times over. What about all of the discussion about Metropolitan Philip amongst the Antiochian clergy and laity lately? Should we completely avoid the “sharing of negative information” about the decisions being made in our Archdiocese and make only positive comments, or is there ever a place for honest discussion for the purpose of discernment about the problems we see. Your word about gossip is right-on and I hope I will apply it to myself, but I wonder about the Roman Catholic practice of “keeping secrets” about pedophiles and quietly sweeping their misdeeds under the rug . I have known situations where persons have been potentially quite dangerous or even just moderately exploitive according to substantiated information, and where warnings to those involved with those persons have seemed appropriate for the sake of their avoiding getting hurt. Should we just let people find out on their own what we ourselves have witnessed or experienced? Other than the above questions, their is no “but…….” that I can use to excuse myself. I guess the answer lies in our motives.

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