It has been my experience there are few actions that cause more damage to relationships than gossip. Gossip is an insidious evil perpetrated with "the best intentions". Born of pride and a judgemental spirit, gossip maligns, cripples, wounds and devastates even the most stable relationships.
Gossip is handed down through generations; children being terribly mis-shaped by parents, aunts, uncles, grandparents, friends and neighbors; gossips raise gossips.
Gossip kills friendships. Gossip destroys marriages. Gossip divides churches.
"I heard" begins a common gossip session. Some gossip in the name of "prayer", some in the name of "helping", some as "warnings" to others, but it all starts and ends the same way; "I heard...", "she said...", "I wonder...", "he said...", "have you heard...". Pride pushes gossip through otherwise seemingly innocent lips and into the ears of all close by. Gossip is always repeated. There are always victims of gossip. Gossip is ugly. Words spoken may not be taken back; the damage is done.
In the restaurant business we were watchful for damaging comments. It was an industry standard that a negative comment about a restaurant would be repeated up to 30 times before dying out. "I heard that the food was not good", "I heard that the service was terrible", "I heard that the prices were too high", "I heard", "I heard", "I heard". In contrast, positive comments were held to be repeated only up to 10 times. Gossip kills businesses, gossip distorts perception, gossip does not give some a chance.
Gossip makes people cry, causes sleepless nights, hardens hearts. Gossip may be wrathful, vengeful, purposeful, stabbing. Gossip is never innocent.
Psalm 141:3 "Set a guard, O LORD, over my mouth; Keep watch over the door of my lips."
I confess that I have gossiped; I have participated in hurtful discussion concerning others, so have you. I have maligned others through anger or selfish desire to lift myself up; I suspect you have as well. We don't always set out to gossip, purpose to hurt or intend to tear down, but the damage is always the same, purposeful or not.
Psalm 15:1-3 "(A psalm by David.) Who may stay in God's temple or live on the holy mountain of the LORD? Only those who obey God and do as they should. They speak the truth and don't spread gossip; they treat others fairly and don't say cruel things."
I have been grievously wounded by gossip, some purposeful, some not malicious, but scarring nonetheless. I suspect each of us can tell a similar tale. Words can cut deeper than any knife.
We must exercise caution when we open our mouths to speak of others, carefully weighing our words and honestly inquiring of ourselves (and our listeners) whether we are speaking in a positive, caring manner.
If we discover that we are not, then let us change our words and our purpose or simply shut up.