Why Gossip Is So Damaging

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Someone passed me a book by Henry Cloud recently entitled The Power of the Other. I can’t say I’ve read it in great detail, but the bits I’ve skimmed I like. In particular Cloud has a powerful chapter on what he terms the Bermuda triangle of relationships – the place where things go bad.

He’s referring to an older model known as the Karpman Drama triangle in which Bill upsets Ben who then goes and tells Bob. In Ben’s mind he is the victim, Bill the persecutor, and Bob the rescuer. Because Ben didn’t talk to Bill about the issue now Ben and Bob both think Bill’s a jerk. Bob only got one side of the story and, because he didn’t want to contradict or upset Ben he simply affirmed his version of events, which means Bill must have really been bad. Bob and Bill haven’t had any issues but now Bob has secret beef with Bill. Bill all this time is completely unaware of what’s going on. When he finds out he’s going to pull the victim card and find another rescuer, Burt, to confide in. Now Bill’s upset with Ben and Bob, as now is Burt. Ben and Bob are upset with Bill, and now Burt as he’s sided with Bill. And pretty quickly more people get dragged in and more people get more upset with more people. And all because Bill never spoke to Ben. Sad, no!?

It’s a powerful miniature portrait of just how destructive and divisive it can be to go sideways with our hurts. So what’s the solution? Here’s a few thoughts which may help:

  • Calm down. Sleep on it and reflect. It might not be all their fault – ‘Tremble and do not sin; when you are on your beds, search your hearts and be silent’ (Psa 4:1)
  • Slow down. Be slow to speak, quick to listen. There’s always another side to every story. ‘ Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry’ (Jam 1:19)
  • Quiet down. Not all things that could be said need to be. ‘Sin is not ended by multiplying words, but the prudent hold their tongues.’ (Prov 10:19)
  • Speak up. Talk to God first. ‘Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God’ (Phi 4:6)
  • Speak out. Talk first to the person with whom you have the issue. Follow the Matt 18 procedure – ‘if your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you’ (Matt 18:15). Matt 18:16-17 tells you what to do if they won’t listen.
  • Speak gently. Win your friend, not an argument. Don’t be confrontational. ‘slander no one, be peaceable and considerate, and always to be gentle toward everyone’ (Tit 3:2)
  • Let it go. Don’t hold grudges. Forgive and don’t keep bringing it up. ‘Without wood a fire goes out; without a gossip a quarrel dies down.’ (Prov 26:20)

Few things harm churches as much as ongoing underlying tensions and conflicts. Satan loves it. Bring it into the light, deal with it. Don’t let it gnaw away at you or others. And rejoice in fellowship restored. If you’ve got an issue with someone don’t put it off; deal with it today. You’ll be glad you did.