How to Talk to Your Kids about Gossip
Most of us have fallen prey to idle gossip. It's something that is often times subtle and rather ambiguous in and of itself. Perhaps it's not the blatantly hateful water cooler discussions at the office, but the few words spoken in "concern" about someone's appearance, actions, or short-comings with another friend or co-worker.
Gossip derives from the idea of "whispering". According to Merriam-Webster's Dictionary, "gossip" means "To indulge in idle talk or rumors about others; spreading of sensational stories." Gossip is a close cousin to slander, which is referred to as, "malicious talk; to spread damaging information;to defame". Here's one to wake you up, to further solidify how evil talking about others is in God's eyes, the Bible calls Satan, "accuser of the brethren." (Rev. 12:10).
Paul talks about gossip in Romans. Notice how he clumps this rather subtle sin in with such things as murderers and God-haters!
(Romans 1:28-32) "Furthermore, just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done. 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, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they have no understanding, no fidelity, no love, no mercy. Although they know God's righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them."
Okay, if that got your attention, like it did mine, it's time to start being mindful about what comes out of our mouths. While I can honestly tell you I haven't slipped up and committed a little murder here and there, I have slipped up and spoken negatively about others. According to Paul, those actions...my little slip ups, deserve the same punishment as that of a murderer. Death. Whoa!!
As we all know, there is no more effective way to teach our children than by our own actions and words. I guarantee, if you desire that your children learn to speak words of love and kindness, like Jesus, about others-- and yet they hear you talking about others in a negative way--they will DO AS YOU DO! (James 1:26)
Surprisingly, Thumper's mom was NOT the first one who came up with the brilliant advice of, "If you can't say something nice about someone, don't say anything at all." It's actually a Biblical truth found in Ephesians 4:29.
If you have genuine concerns about someone and have true intent to help them, go to this person directly. Criticism can never be "constructive" if it's expressed to a third party. In the same aspect, if a friend comes to you for advice, don't betray this confidence. Stay trustworthy.
Reinforce these ideas with your children when you have the chance - if you hear your child speaking negatively about someone else, remind them that they would not want someone to talk about them that way.
Avoid hanging out with people who gossip, and if a friend starts talking negatively about someone and you think the conversation is heading into gossip or slander, stop your friend--in brotherly/sisterly love. Remind them of what God's Word teaches us. Speak positively about friends, co-workers and even strangers. Let your "little light" shine out from your words and actions. Be an example of Jesus to your children and other adults.
Lisa Strnad is an independent contractor in Christian media as a writer, marketing consultant, and public relations specialist. She speaks to Christian women's groups on the issues of motherhood, home schooling and raising a child with special needs. Lisa and her family make their home in Nashville.