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My friend Julie sat by me at the Wednesday night church dinner. “I don’t mean to gossip,” she began, “But did you hear the Campbells are leaving the church?” Oh goodness my heart sank. I really hate these conversations. I just don’t know how to respond. I don’t want to be rude, but I really hate gossip.

I replied “No I didn’t but I don’t think we need to be concerned with that. Families leave churches for many reasons so I think we shouldn’t be concerned with the how’s and the why’s”. Then I asked her how her granddaughter is doing and the conversation turned toward more cheerful things.

But what if Julie had said, “I don’t mean to gossip, but did you hear our youth pastor is leaving the church?” Because I did have this conversation with someone else. I didn’t shut her down because I was genuinely shocked and concerned about my church and my pastor. So I replied, “No I didn’t. Do you know where he’s going?”

Are both conversations gossip, or just the conversation about the family leaving? The Bible of course has much to say about gossip and slander. One verse is Proverbs 21:23 (ESV) Whoever keeps his mouth and his tongue keeps himself out of trouble. Good advice, but when is it acceptable to gather information and when does that transform into gossip? Many verses warn against speaking evil towards a brother, or telling lies. Is telling other people that a minister or a family is leaving gossip?

My friend Lolly developed a technique to solve all those questions. When someone would approach her and say, “Did you know Mary……?” Or “Have you heard the Jones family….?” Lolly would simply say “No I have not! Let’s go talk to Mary/the Jones family and hear what they have to say!” Her response immediately silenced the gossipers. I think it also shocked the people who were not trying to gossip but thought they were just gathering information. What a fabulous idea, going straight to the source!

I do love Lolly and her straight forward attitude! She’s not wrong. If we feel comfortable having the conversation in front of the family we’re discussing, then it’s not gossip. If we are uncomfortable having them hear what we’re saying, then we are either gossiping or pretty darn close to the line. Jesus wants us to stay as far away from that line as we can!

I find a lesson to be learned in all my past deeds. In this case I wish I had used the Lolly trick and said “I have not! Why don’t we go find our youth pastor or his wife and talk about it?”

Please comment and let me know your thoughts on this post. Have you had situations that you wish you had walked away from gossip, or potential gossip?

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