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Avoiding Gossip is Hard — Here’s My Advice

Creator:
Published:
May 20, 2024
May 20, 2024
Read this advice on how to stop gossiping to help clear your conscience and refocus your conversations.

I’ve struggled for a few years now with giving up gossip. It’s not for lack of trying or poor motivation. I know gossip has no place in healthy relationships. I’ve experienced firsthand how detrimental it can be to myself and those around me. And yet, I still find myself engaging in conversations that don’t fully respect the dignity of people who aren’t there, especially when I’m around others who don’t see a problem with gossip. It’s something that comes up time and again when I examine my conscience. So, what’s going on here? Why is it that I can’t seem to break this habit?

Beware: Gossip is a slippery slope

The decision to avoid gossip is more complicated than refraining from talking about people who aren’t around. It’s unrealistic and inauthentic to avoid talking about others completely. For instance, we might ask a friend to pray for a family member who’s having a hard time. This kind of plea, when it’s done with respect for others' private information, is a beautiful way to grow in communion with those around us. Other times, we might want to share intimate details about our lives in order to gain some much-needed perspective. For example, if you’re in an unhealthy relationship, it can help to seek counsel outside of that relationship, even if disclosing details hurts the reputation of your partner. As important as these opportunities for connection are, the downside is that they are prone to turn into gossip. These moments can be hard to stop when we’re in them, especially if the nature of the conversation takes a turn quickly.

Remember that people are more than their bad moments

For my own part, even though I’m no longer in the habit of overtly harming someone’s reputation, I absolutely get caught up in oversharing details that aren’t mine to share or letting conversations continue that aren’t serving a purpose anymore. It’s in these moments, where friendly conversation turns into subtle gossip, that I realize avoiding gossip is not just about following an arbitrary set of rules. It’s about protecting the reputation and dignity of others, especially when they aren’t there to defend themselves. It’s about being purposeful with the language I use to describe someone or their life situation, so I’m not reducing them to a singular moment. 

Listen to your conscience — and friends who model grace-filled conversations

This is a more nuanced approach, but worth the discernment. I can feel the difference in my conscience when I’m bringing up someone else so I can convey information, as opposed to bringing them up so I have an opportunity to criticize them. It can be tricky to discern, especially when these two different motives can result in nearly identical conversations (at least to the person I’m talking to), but my heart knows the difference. My intent is what matters here.

I’ve learned this from friends who inherently make me feel safe to be around. I feel assured that they will protect my dignity, not just because of how much they care about me, but because of how much they love and respect everyone. They are always offering grace to others, even people who I would like to turn into villains. In fact, if I start gossiping, they quickly turn the conversation on its head to remind me of the humanity of the person I’m degrading. These friends don’t just let me complain endlessly about others, but challenge me to set healthy boundaries with people who frustrate me. These kinds of friends remind me of my identity as a beloved child of God, even when I can’t recall it myself.

I hope to keep growing into the kind of person who can call out the dignity of others, even at their worst moment. I desperately want to provide the kind of space that has so generously been given to me countless times; a space that is large enough for me to express all of my emotions and frustrations and hurts, but calls me onto something greater.

Creators:
Megan Ulrich
Published:
May 20, 2024
May 20, 2024
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