You Can Crush Gossip!
“The north wind brings forth rain, and a slandering tongue an angry face.”—Prov. 25:23, AT.
1. With what illustrations did James show the power of the tongue and the inconsistency of using it to bless and curse?
THE disciple James took to task the human tongue. By striking illustrations he emphasized the difficulty of controlling this little body member. Bits in the mouths of horses can turn their whole bodies. Small rudders can swing big ships around. So the little tongue makes great brags. As a tiny spark can set a forest aflame, so the small tongue can be a fire to inflame the whole body and defile it. The beasts of earth men can tame, “but the tongue, not one of mankind can get it tamed.” Why, “if anyone does not stumble in word, this one is a perfect man.” A fountain does not bubble out both the sweet and the bitter. A fig tree does not produce olives, nor a vine figs. Neither does salt water produce sweet water. Yet the same tongue sends out both blessing and cursing. This is not fitting. While no man is perfect and no man can perfectly control the tongue, yet this does not give license to gossip or obscenity. We can keep its damage to a minimum. We can keep it from being full of venom to poison the mind of one against another. We can keep it from becoming a sword that cuts or an arrow that pierces, not letting it fly murderously to destroy by gossip the good name of others. If it is busy with waters of truth it cannot be aflame with gossip. James showed it must be brought under some control, saying: “It is not proper, my brothers, for these things to go on occurring this way.”—Jas. 3:2-12, NW.
2. What may partly explain why persons are quicker to criticize than commend?
2 To understand why we gossip may help us to stop before we start. It is a fact that human creatures are quicker to criticize than commend. Why do we tend to tell the bad and be mum about the good? Do we take the good for granted, accepting it as proper without comment? Do we single out the bad because we feel irritation or even righteous indignation about it? This may be true in some instances. Is it a matter of commenting on extremes that grabs our attention? We comment on the good if it is outstanding and on the bad if it is extreme. However, gossip is more often petty, focusing on trivial matters. So apparently more is involved than extremes that catch our notice, or trespasses serious enough to make us righteously indignant.
3. What present natural conditions may explain the tendency to gossip, resulting in what conflict?
3 Humans are social creatures, naturally banding together in communities. They like to communicate with one another and there is a strong tendency to tell others what we have just learned. To know something another does not and to relieve ourselves of the morsel makes us feel wise. But why are the tidbits of gossip the daintiest of morsels? Well, it is “out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks,” and of the heart of fallen man we read: “The heart is treacherous above all things, and desperately sick—who can understand it?” Or, “Deceitful is the heart above all things, and dangerously wayward—who can know it?” Then it says Jehovah knows the heart, and the prayer is for him to heal it. Fallen man with inherited sinfulness inclines toward wrongdoing, and his heart, the seat of motive and affection, is deceitful and wayward and sick, and out of the contents of this weak organ of fallen flesh the mouth of man speaks. The sinful tendency is to speak sinfully, but minds educated by Jehovah’s Word strive to follow Jehovah’s law. So a conflict ensues between God’s law in the mind and sin’s law in the flesh, with this frequent result: “What I wish, this I do not practice; but what I hate is what I do.” After we have gossiped we repent and wish we had stilled our tongue. We regret our weakness of letting gossip go in one ear and out the mouth. We must strengthen our mind in Jehovah’s law and pray for his healing of our heart to help us crush sin’s law in our flesh and gain victory over it. Sick and wayward hearts incline to see the sickness and waywardness in others, and out of this abundance mouths speak. To this inclination many public newspapers pander by headlining sordid crimes and by featuring gossip columns.—Matt. 12:34, NW; Jer. 17:9, 10, 14, AT, Ro; Rom. 7:15, NW.
4. What motives may be behind gossip?
4 Sometimes gossip is deliberate and malicious, designed to run one person down while elevating the gossiper. The slanderer may be undermining another to get his job or steal his friends or get his position of service in a congregation. He may be trying to build up feeling or opposition against a person because he dislikes that one. Frequently there is a spirit of envy or jealousy in back of talebearing. The gossiper may envy his victim’s prominence or reputation or good works, the gossiper by comparison not showing up to advantage. Why did Cain kill Abel? “Because his own works were wicked, but those of his brother were righteous.” For the same reason gossips try to raise themselves by lowering others. Any who thus seek to exalt themselves will certainly be humbled and brought low, and likewise those who forward the schemes of such ones by spreading their envious slanders. Also for sake of advantage and to ingratiate oneself with a certain person the schemer might gossip about one he knows this person dislikes. This may turn into flattery, contrasting favorably the one listening with the one being slandered. Of such it is true: “Their mouths speak swelling things, while they are admiring personalities for the sake of their own benefit.” Christians copy Paul, who said: “At no time have we turned up either with flattering speech, (just as you know) or with a false front for covetousness, God is witness!” Jehovah hates “a mind with crafty plans.”—1 John 3:12; Jude 16; 1 Thess. 2:5, NW; Prov. 6:18, Mo.
5. How may gossip be used to divert attention from oneself?
5 A person may gossip to divert attention from himself. If he puts others in the critical spotlight it is not on him. So he may seek to hide his own filth by slinging mud at others. Or, a gossip may criticize others of sins he commits. He wants company, for then disapproval cannot concentrate on him alone but spreads out over a group. If he is accused he can point to others as doing the same thing, thinking thereby to justify or excuse himself. Incidentally, gossipers are often the first ones to accuse others of gossiping. Knowing they are guilty themselves, they judge others by themselves, but much more harshly than themselves. Someone else always starts it. So it works out as the Bible says: “Therefore you are inexcusable, O man, whoever you are, if you judge; for in the thing in which you judge another, you condemn yourself, inasmuch as you that judge practice the same things.”—Rom. 2:1, NW.
6. How do some subtly exalt themselves, and with what result?
6 Many times persons gossip about others to exalt themselves. They may not realize this, but it is a subtle motive behind the talk. To criticize others in effect exalts oneself. Since you disapprove of such a fault you would not be guilty of it, is the implication. This kind of gossiping can be a form of bragging on yourself. You point the finger of guilt at another, and you feel superior. You feel a bit smug about it. You border on the Pharisee who in prayer to God gossiped about others and gave thanks that he was not like them, “not as the rest of men, extortioners, unrighteous, adulterers, or even as this tax collector.” But the tax collector when praying “kept beating his chest, saying: ‘O God, be gracious to me a sinner.’” He did not feel smugly superior to others, but humbly lamented his own unworthiness. Then the divine rule was stated: “Everyone that exalts himself will be humiliated, but he that humbles himself will be exalted.” To exalt yourself subtly by gossiping leads to humiliation. To be exalted by Jehovah, humbly consider your own faults, not those of others.—Luke 18:9-14, NW.
7. What other factors may contribute to gossiping, yet when all the camouflage is stripped off what is gossip seen to be?
7 A number of other factors might contribute to gossiping. If one is too frustrated to do certain things, is unable to do them for some reason, he might compensate for it by criticizing those who do these things, making such conduct seem wrong. One might feel insecure, so he finds fault with others to reassure himself. If one is strong in a certain point he might be very critical of those weak in that respect, lacking mercy, and egotistically thinking he is the standard to be measured up to. By criticizing this weakness in others he subtly calls notice to his superiority on that point. In many instances persons gossip to get attention, to gain a listening ear. It flatters them to know something others want to hear, makes them feel wise. Actually they are shallow, too shallow or too lazy to think deeply and gain attention by intelligent speaking. It is easy to gossip, criticize, disparage and exaggerate, so they do this to tickle ears itching to hear spicy tales. The gossiper puts two and two together and gets five, and with repetition the sum mounts to six or seven. Undoubtedly there are many reasons and combinations of reasons why people gossip. But when all camouflage is stripped off and we see gossip for what it is—unkind, unfair, harmful, hateful, shallow, slanderous, malicious, murderous—we understand why Jehovah detests it and why Christians should shun it.
STOP GOSSIP GOING AND COMING!
8. What makes gossip cowardly, and what thought will help hold the tongue?
8 To see gossip for what it is helps us stop it from going out of our mouth. It is cowardly talk and a goodly percentage of it is lying talk. Who likes a coward and a liar? Not Jehovah. His Word says: “As for the cowards . . . and all the liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulphur. This means the second death.” To say behind the back what one fears to say to the face is cowardly. We should not shoot others in the back with words. Do you object to the accused one’s hearing the accusation? Are you not willing to give him a chance to defend himself, to tell his side, to clarify matters, to spike a rumor or refute a falsehood? How can he if you do not face him? Are you being fair and honest with your brother? When you start to say something about someone ask yourself, Am I willing to say this to his face? If it is gossip you will probably answer No, and if you are a gossiper you will probably say it anyway. You may swear the one you tell to secrecy. Yet a proverb emphasizes how such talk gets back to the one slandered: “Even in your thought, do not curse the king, nor in your bedchamber curse the rich; for a bird of the air will carry your voice, or some winged creature tell the matter.” And can you rightly complain? You could not keep the secret yourself. Why expect another to? Why expect more of another than of yourself? Keeping quiet was too great a strain for you. Why expect another to resist the strain you could not? Moreover, he may like the person you slander and may want to give the person a chance to defend himself. That is only fair. So when you start to gossip, think how you will feel when your victim hears it, probably in an exaggerated version. Let this thought help hold your tongue.—Rev. 21:8, NW; Eccl. 10:20, RS.
9. What better reason is there for stopping gossip, and in what several ways can we try to break the habit?
9 However, our motive for clamping our lips against gossip should be better than fearing the repercussions when our victim catches us at it. Gossip pleases Satan, it displeases Jehovah. Whom will we please? Which one will we serve? You serve the one you obey. It is Satan’s will for you to gossip. Jehovah’s will is that you crush it. Gossip becomes a habit. The more you do it the more entrenched becomes the habit. To break the habit calls for conscious, steadfast, determined, strenuous effort. You cannot pamper yourself. Do not try to taper off. Stop now! Wage an unflagging fight! Every time you resist the urge the habit loses ground, its grip on you is weakened; but each time you succumb to it you strengthen its hold on you. Fight it to the death, with no backing down, no giving in, no retreating. Fight it at the source, kill its roots, which are in the mind and heart. Do more than put gossip from your mind; put good thoughts in its place. Jesus showed that when an unclean spirit was ousted from a man it would return with seven others if the man did not become filled with Jehovah’s spirit. (Matt. 12:43-45) So crowd out evil gossip with good thoughts. Pray for Jehovah’s help: “Set a watch, O Jehovah, before my mouth; keep the door of my lips.” Gossipers look for the bad in people. Form the habit of looking for the good in them. Instead of eyeing bad people “keep your eye on those who are walking in a way that accords with the example you have in us,” Paul says.—Ps. 141:3, AS; Phil. 3:17, NW.
10. What thoughts will help us refrain from gossip even when we become its target?
10 But what if someone gossips about us? Cannot we fight back in self-defense? With truth, yes, but not with gossip. Why let others provoke us to sin, as Moses once did: “They made his spirit bitter, and he spoke words that were rash”? Why let a gossiper turn you into one, making you into his evil image by getting you to gossip back? Prove yourself stronger than this weakling, “not paying back injury for injury or reviling for reviling.” “Return evil for evil to no one.” Refuse to pile more fuel on the fires of gossip and rather than become heated by inflammatory talk remain cool and calm in spirit: “He who has a hasty temper exalts folly.” David realized the danger of heated replies: “I said, ‘I will guard my ways, that I may not sin with my tongue; I will bridle my mouth, so long as the wicked are in my presence.’ I was dumb and silent, I held my peace to no avail; my distress grew worse, my heart became hot within me. As I mused, the fire burned; then I spoke with my tongue.” As he thought he boiled within, but when he spoke it was not in hot slanders to the opposers, but in prayerful petition to Jehovah.—Ps. 106:33, RS; 1 Pet. 3:9; Rom. 12:17, NW; Prov. 14:29; Ps. 39:1-3, RS.
11. Why is it wrong to listen to gossip?
11 When you gossip you help at most no one and you hurt at least three: the one you talk about, the one you talk to, and yourself. The same is true when you listen to gossip. You hurt the same three. Do you know a sure way that you can crush gossip? Refuse to listen to it. The gossiper wants your ears. Do not lend him your ears. He will only fill them with dirt. And you may be tempted to spread the dirt to other ears. Help him and protect yourself by not listening. When you give ear to gossip you are not an innocent bystander. You should stop gossip both going out and coming in. If you send it out, your tongue is sinning; if you take it in, your ears are sinning. If you listen to gossip and believe it you are in effect answering a matter before you hear it, for until you hear both sides you have not heard it fully. Hence, according to the Bible, you are being unfair and committing folly: “To answer before one hears is one’s folly and shame.” So turn a deaf ear to gossip. Pause and consider: if a gossip were slandering you would you not like for the hearer to stop him? So do as you would be done to, as Jesus said: “All things, therefore, that you want men to do to you, you also must likewise do to them.”—Prov. 18:13, AT; Matt. 7:12, NW.
12. What should we remember about gossipers, and how can we try to help them?
12 Always remember this: a gossiper is not a true friend. If he gossips to you he will gossip about you. By gossiping he may nudge you toward gossiping, thereby pumping you, and “when he goes out, he tells it abroad.” This is sly hypocrisy. But a gossiper does not need to have two heads to be two-faced. He will gossip to whomever he is with, because it is an entrenched habit that controls him. If by refusing to listen you can halt the tongue he cannot, you help him, and he may appreciate it later: “He who rebukes a man will afterward find more favor than he who flatters with his tongue.” But whether he later appreciates it or not, as a follower of Jehovah you must register disapproval and meet his gossip with a frown: “The north wind brings forth rain, and a slandering tongue an angry face.” If he does not reform and replace his foolish words with those of wisdom and knowledge, do as the Bible says: “Leave the presence of a fool, for there you do not meet words of knowledge.” Only those like him will listen to him: “An evildoer listens to wicked lips; and a liar gives heed to a mischievous tongue.” For our own protection we must break association with the chronic gossip: “Do not be misled. Bad associations spoil useful habits.”—Ps. 41:6; Prov. 28:23, RS; Pr 25:23, AT; Pr 14:7; 17:4, RS; 1 Cor. 15:33, NW.
LOVE BANKRUPTS GOSSIP
13. How does love bankrupt gossip?
13 Gossip feeds and grows on weaknesses and faults, but love robs it of its sustenance by hiding these shortcomings: “Love covers a multitude of sins.” Love leaves gossip bankrupt of material and deletes it from our discussions, and hence love with its power to cover over shortcomings is urged upon Christians: “Above all things, have intense love for one another.” You love yourself. That love shows ingenuity in finding excuses for your mistakes or extenuating circumstances to cover over your errors. It makes you prejudiced in your own favor and as a result it is difficult for you to see your own faults. Well, “you must love your neighbor as yourself.” Let the same love that covers your shortcomings work to cover the faults of your brothers. Let it make you as understanding, as merciful, as forgiving toward him as it makes you toward yourself. Jehovah “knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust.” You are glad he remembers and does not expect too much? Then you remember your brother’s is dust also and do not expect too much. You must forgive to be forgiven. According to Jesus’ model prayer, you ask Jehovah to forgive you as you forgive others. If you do not forgive, you are not effectually asking for forgiveness. When you forgive offenses forget them. If you later repeat them and gossip about them your forgiveness was from deceitful lips, not from a sincere heart. You are lacking in the love that covers a multitude of sins.—1 Pet. 4:8; Matt. 19:19, NW; Ps. 103:14, RS.
14. What good admonition does Proverbs 16:2 give, and what will crush gossip if it fills our hearts?
14 Proverbs 16:2 (AS) states: “All the ways of a man are clean in his own eyes; but Jehovah weigheth the spirits.” Jehovah’s scales are true balances, not tilted by favoritism or partiality or prejudice, and on them he weighs the spirit, the disposition, the impulses that motivate a man’s thinking or speaking or acting. A man’s love for himself makes him partial to himself and to him his ways seem clean, but Jehovah’s impartial scales test the genuineness of the motives behind his thought or word or deed. So be careful, and not too sure you are clean while viewing others as soiled. When Jehovah reads his scales his eye is impartially merciful for all. You try to be impartially merciful when looking at yourself and at others, not partial to yourself and exacting of others. “Love covers all offenses.” Jehovah in his love provides Christ’s ransom to cover all offenses of obedient persons. We should cultivate the kind of love that will forgivingly cover over our brothers’ offenses toward us. Here is a description of that kind of love: “Love is long-suffering and obliging. Love is not jealous, it does not brag, does not get puffed up, does not behave indecently, does not look for its own interests, does not become provoked. It does not keep account of the injury. It does not rejoice over unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” If we speak out of hearts filled with this kind of love, we shall never gossip!—Prov. 10:12, RS; 1 Cor. 13:4-7, NW.
15. What debt will we always have, and what error should we shun?
15 We may as well face it. We shall never get out of debt, no matter how long we live, even if that be for eternity. We shall always be owing something. What is that? Romans 13:8 (NW) answers: “Do not be owing anybody a single thing, except to love one another.” We shall always owe love to one another. We should start paying on that debt now and never stop payment. One way to start is to stop all gossip. And if you think your talk about someone is clean, remember Jehovah weighs your spirit and if there is any taint to your talk it will show on his scales. And reflect on this before you let your tongue loose on someone. Remember that in Jesus’ illustration of the sheep and the goats the goats were surprised when told of their indifference and neglect relative to Christ; then they learned that what they had done or failed to do to his brothers was counted as done to him. Now, would you gossip about Christ, find fault with him, carry tales against him? If you would not do these things to him, do not do them to your brothers. Do not commit the error of the goats. The way you treat your brothers is the way you treat Christ. In fact, the Bible says that if you say you love Jehovah but are hating your brother you are a liar, “for he who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot be loving God, whom he has not seen.” So start now and never stop paying on the debt of love you owe your brothers.—1 John 4:20, NW.
RESPECT THE MIND GOD GAVE YOU!
16, 17. What illustrations show the folly of using the mind for gossip, and what quotation shows the marvels of the mind?
16 If you had the finest automobile made, with the most painstaking workmanship mechanically, and with a bright, new, shiny, stylish body, would you use it to pull a plow or haul fertilizer? If you had a beautiful home of modern design, with large picture windows with colorful drapes, artistically decorated, tastefully furnished with luxurious pieces for all the rooms, and with shining hardwood floors in some rooms and thick cushiony wall-to-wall rugs in others, would you let pigs have the run of that house? You would never so misuse such a fine car and such a beautiful home, would you? They are made for a higher use and deserve much better treatment.
17 So it is with the human mind. It deserves a much loftier use than being filled with gossip, stuffed with slander, crammed with dirt and made to use the tongue as a tool to scatter this filth to others. The brain is a marvelous gift from Jehovah, so complicated and intricate that the wisest men cannot begin to fathom fully its workings. One researcher has said that it is capable of holding fifty times as much information as is contained in the Library of Congress. An article in The Reader’s Digest, July, 1954, states: “To get a faint idea of what is going on continuously in the brain and the spinal cord, think of 1000 telephone switchboards, each big enough for a city like New York, going full tilt receiving and transmitting requests, questions, orders. . . . Through its incredible ability to hook together thousands of reverberating circuits in a fraction of a second—each representing a memory or an idea—the brain is able to bring together into one grand circuit the data needed to think and make decisions. Many scientists believe that every experience of our lives is recorded and preserved by these electrical circuits, including millions that we seem to have completely forgotten. Psychiatrists have found that when a patient tries day after day he can recall buried incidents of his childhood, even though he invariably begins by saying, ‘I don’t remember a thing.’” The article concludes that even the most brilliant man does not “in a lifetime use more than a tiny portion of the capacity of his brain.”
18. Are we “leaky vessels,” as some have said?
18 Note the opinion that “every experience of our lives is recorded and preserved.” How does this fit with the assertion by some that we are “leaky vessels,” which assertion they base on a Bible text? According to the King James Version, marginal reading, Hebrews 2:1 says: “Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should run out as leaking vessels.” The New World Translation clearly presents the proper thought: “That is why it is necessary for us to pay more than the usual attention to the things heard by us, that we may never drift away.” It is not the truths we hear that run out as though we were leaky vessels, but it is we ourselves who are in danger of slipping or drifting away if we do not pay close, unusual attention to what we learn. So our minds are not leaky vessels and points learned are recorded and retained, but the information may become buried and lost to us as far as remembering it for use if we have not paid “more than the usual attention” to it when learning it. It will be hard to dig out and will call for strenuous mental effort by a diligent probing of the memory. Failure to dig it out is no proof it is not there. The marvels of the mind heavily underline the grateful words of David: “I will give thanks unto thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.”—Ps. 139:14, AS.
19. With what should we fill our minds?
19 Do you thank Jehovah for your fearfully and wonderfully made mind? How do you? By filling it with gossip and using it to disgorge gossip? Is that the thanks he gets from you? If that is the case with you, it is time you forsake your ways of gossip and thoughts of slander and show you respect and appreciate the mind God gave you by filling it with good ways and high thoughts, with divine ways and Jehovah’s thoughts: “Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; and let him return unto Jehovah, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon. For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith Jehovah. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.” His ways and thoughts are expressed in the Bible and through it he talks to us. And what does he talk about? Whom Matthew was out with last night? Or the latest gossip about Priscilla? Hardly! He does not degrade our minds or cater to the sinful tendencies of fallen flesh; rather he seeks to edify and upbuild and strengthen in righteousness. His Word discloses the high level our thinking should take: “Whatever things are true [not rumor or slander], whatever things are of serious concern [not trivial or petty], whatever things are righteous [not unfair or wicked], whatever things are chaste [not evil suspicions or gossip dirt], whatever things are lovable [not belittling or hateful], whatever things are well spoken of [not derogatory or evilly mentioned], whatever virtue [not badness] there is and whatever praiseworthy [not condemned] thing there is, continue considering these things.”—Isa. 55:7-9, AS; Phil. 4:8, NW.
20. What concluding summary of this study is here given?
20 So remember gossip started with Satan. Guard against it. It works injury. Jehovah forbids it. Discern the bad motives behind it. Let it dirty neither your tongue nor your ear. Do not let it make you its slave just because someone makes you its victim. Remain truly friendly and loving, remembering that a gossiper is neither. And treat your fearfully and wonderfully made mind right. Fill it with good. The milk and the meat of Jehovah’s Word nourish and strengthen the human mind. Enlarge and deepen your mind to the maturity of appreciating rich food. The gossiping mind is the shallow mind, and an empty brain and a tattling tongue go together. Better to have more on the mind and less on the tongue than an empty mind and a full tongue. Certainly we are not ignorant of the evils of gossip, of ways to combat it, and of how to use our tongue right. The disciple James said: “If one knows how to do what is right and yet does not do it, it is a sin for him.” (Jas. 4:17, NW) With Jehovah’s law in our mind we can intelligently fight this sin in our flesh. We must crush gossip out of our life before gossip causes God to crush the life out of us!