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Gossip was our middle school’s hottest commodity. Sometimes it was more valuable than a Guess triangle on the back of our pants, or even a Nike swoosh! on the soles of our shoes.
Fortunately, my girlfriends and I were talented in the art of exporting information. We were the grooves in good, the bad and the broken records. Since we were the over-achieving clan, it was important for us to learn and broadcast the biggest and best information first:
“Did you hear who asked her to the dance?”
“Did you know that he had a party and the police had to come?”
“Did you hear that her parents were getting divorced?”
So, it was under the flickering lights of the cafeteria each day that we became the hub of the informational showdown. We had a flair for talking, chatting and gabbing around our brown bag lunches. Gossip became the twisted extracurricular activity our friendships were built on.
Then over the years, the information we learned about others became more delicate. With the current events that we plucked from the grapevine, we could have unraveled reputations.
But, we didn’t think anything of it. Because, what’s wrong with a little girl talk?
Sin is funny that way. It seems so harmless at the start, like a middle school-level transgression. And then before you know it, you’ve graduated from college and your words are piercing the lives of friends, family members, coworkers, acquaintances or even total strangers:
“Is she settling by choosing this man to marry?”
“Is she really ready to have a baby?”
“Is his career getting in the way of their happiness?”
Then the gossip markets are open. Commenting on the life stages of people we love and brewing up problems off of assumptions that are both untrue and none of our business.
I didn’t realize this until it happened to me. Until it was apparent one night during a phone conversation with a friend that me and my relationship had been on the discussion board.
“Do you think you’re too dependent on your boyfriend?” my friend asked me.
I blinked, and checked illuminated display on my phone. Had I heard her correctly?
“No, not at all,” I replied, stunned. “If anything I’m too independent, which makes all of my relationships tricky.”
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This friend’s confrontation of my dependency on my boyfriend was the complete opposite of what I had been struggling with. If she had asked me, I would have told her that I was having problems with commitment all together. I had been fighting for independence for so long, that I had forgotten how to love others–my friends, my family, and my church family–well.
It was apparent to me in that moment on the phone: I was being evaluated. There was a gossip train taking off somewhere, and this time it was my life and my choices that served as the tracks it was gliding on.
I felt like a court trial had been taking place behind my back for a crime that I didn’t commit; one that only existed between suspecting persons’ phone lines.
Thankfully, this individual’s words came from a place of love, rather than the wanting to be an important cog in the rumor-spinning factory. But still, since it came from someone I knew and trusted, her confrontation did more than just prick my skin. It made me second-guess all of the decisions I’ve made, and all of the guidance I truly felt was coming from the Lord.
One off-hand question. One sliver of gossip. One spark lit up a fire in my life. And it took me a few weeks to repair the damage.
Of all thousands words we pass along to each other throughout the day, no one ever said that this was wrong. No one really preaches on gossip. Or tries to put an end to it.
Premarital sex? Sure. Murder? Absolutely. Gluttony? Yes, a total sin against body and soul. There are books, and sermon series and devotional guides to put an end to the spiral of these lifestyle choices.
But, why haven’t we heard a word about gossip?
I have to wonder, though, if gossip has become so woven into the fabric of our lives and friendships that we hardly notice it anymore. Because at this point, I’m not even sure where regular conversation ends and where harmful chatter starts.
Now that I’ve been the one hung up on the vine for display, I’ll make an effort to uproot this pesky weed and let it dry up. No longer feeding it on the idle gossip that has become such an unthinking pattern of life. I am a perpetual gossip girl; and the grapevine has to stop here.
Brett Wilson is a Christ-loving, single, curly-haired, left-handed coffee-addict. She is a public relations writer in Virginia Beach, Virginia. Brett lives with her best friend and a Boston Terrier named Regis. You can read more from Brett at her site, www.prodigalsister.com, or on Twitter.