What is considered gossip? What’s the difference between gossiping and just venting to a friend? In today’s podcast, a caller asking for some fatherly advice sparks a conversation about one of the most common sins.
A listener named Christine calls in to the Busted Halo Show saying she feels uneasy about a piece of gossip someone shared with her recently. She wants to let them know that gossiping is wrong, but she says, “I don’t know if I should get involved.”
Well, Father Dave says, gossiping is certainly a sin if it’s untrue, mean-spirited, or behind someone’s back. “When Saint Paul uses lists of vices and sins, he puts gossip right up there with fornication.” Father Dave advises Christine not to accuse the gossiper directly but rather to express her own feelings by saying something like, “You know what, when you shared that with me the other day, that really hurt my heart.”
Gossiping is one of the easiest sins to fall into, but how do you know when you’re doing it? A common saying is, “It’s not gossip if it’s true,” but in reality, it’s much more complex than that. If what you’re saying is true, it can still be hurtful, even if the subject of the gossip never finds out. “If we’re taking some kind of pleasure in it, then I don’t think it’s good. … It’s better to just be quiet,” Christina says.
Christina points out that people often confuse venting and gossiping. Intentionality matters and so does your relationship with the person you’re telling and the person you’re talking about.
“For me,” Father Dave says, “The difference between gossiping and venting is who you’re venting to. … If you’re venting to your friend in California about your boss in New York, then you might need to just let off some steam. … If you’re venting about your boss in New York to someone else who works for that same person, that is very different than venting to your friend in California.”
Brett agrees that it comes down to intention. “What are your goals? Are you trying to attack the person or in some way harm them? … What am I really trying to do here?” A good litmus test of gossip that Father Dave recommends is seeing if you would have to change the topic if that person was present. “Can you keep the conversation going if that person walks in the room?” Ultimately, it’s better to abide by the old saying, “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.”
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