In a recent post I asked where the line is drawn between sharing and gossip. It's a fine line that I think we/I overstep many times.
I got great feedback. Thank you for your thoughts on the topic.
Here's what I think about talk and when it's deemed as gossip...
Simply put: If the comments and thoughts do not build up the listener or inform them of something they can/should act on, then it's gossip.
Using the scenarios I mentioned in my previous post, if I begin to talk to a friend about another friend and her kids without the intention of reconciliation, then I'm promoting gossip. If, however, I listen to my friend's complaint and then begin to challenge her and encourage her thereby promoting unity amongst my sisters, I think it's serving as an encourager. If I sense that my friend doesn't really want counsel or encouragement but is looking for an ally or is looking to turn me against another friend and/or her kids, then I should lovingly call her on it and encourage her as best I can.
As for more trivial things, like someone's hair or weight or clothing...guilty! I'm a people watcher. I like clothes and hairstyles and decorating and colors and such (not that I'm very stylish myself). But, I notice things. I don't think it's necessarily wrong or gossip to comment on these types of things so long as you aren't being mean. For example, I don't see anything wrong with saying "Wow! Debra looks so good. I love her new hair cut." Or "Maggie has lost weight. I need to find out what she's been doing." To tear someone down...duh, that would be gossip and wrong. As for those ladies that think saying anything to do with these purely physical things is gossip...I'd disagree. Those things just don't matter to some people. But, just because I comment on such things wouldn't make me petty or a gossip. Graciously saying "Oh, I hadn't noticed" (like Deanna mentioned in her comment) is probably a great tactic for many who could care less about these types of things.
Okay, my third example had to do with a trio of friends and social media. When someone is using social media to talk through an issue on any level, I think they are inviting others to talk about it as well. The general "rules" of not running someone down or talking excessively about something that doesn't involve you still apply. But, it's easy to pick up bits of information and need clarification when it's mentioned on social media (especially with the new screwed up feeds on Facebook...but that's a whole other post!). I think a wise person would encourage direct communication whenever possible, though.
Gossip doesn't foster closeness. Sometimes we throw out gossip in order to bait the affections of the listener. In other words, I tell my friend a secret thing so she will feel close to me. But, in order to gain closeness with her, I have to betray another person. That's fake closeness!
As Christians, we are called to unity. We are called to help reconcile others with God. And, I believe that Jesus taught us how to handle conflict in a way that promotes reconciliation with one another. United we stand, divided we fall.
We are warned against being a gossip throughout Scripture. We are told that we (as women) should be busy with our responsibilities, not having too much time for idle chatter. For me, gossip is hard to entertain when I'm busy doing what I should be doing.
Let's be a people who promote unity and honor others with all the words of our mouth whether they hear them or not!