TiO 45 – The Art of Relationship – The Lost Art of Handling Gossip

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The Main Idea

Gossip creates hurts that are in the absence of and without the knowledge of another person. But it has the capability of hurting others deeply, damaging their reputations irreparably, and causing permanent rifts in relationships. Gossip is bad and the Bible has a lot to say about it.

Warm Up Questions: (Choose 1 or 2)

Q1: Most offices do not have water coolers, around which people stand to discuss the events of the day. What is the equivalent of the water cooler (the place where people pause to chat) in your office or school?

Q2: What kind of food entices you so much that an endless supply would cause you to eat until you are sick?

Q3: When do you start to decorate for Christmas? (I know, this is not a question about gossip, it is just something that people like to talk about).

Dig a Little Deeper

Relational messes can be caused with simple words. Sometimes they are innocent, a misunderstanding about something said. Sometimes they are intentional, words spoken designed to hurt. Sometimes they appear innocent when in fact they could easily be identified as hurtful if some time and energy were put into thinking about their consequences. Gossip is like that. It often appears as innocent talk when, in fact, it is hurtful and can easily been seen as such.

Read Proverbs 11:13, 16:28, 17:9, and 18:8

Clearly, the writer of these Proverbs was passionate about good and helpful communication.

Read Genesis 37:1-11 together.

The story of Jacob (later called Israel) and his family is a story of dysfunctional relationships. There are allegiances and infighting, all of these being brought forward from generation to generation and leading to open war as the history of Israel moved forward. The story of Joseph and his brothers is multifaceted. There is no one reason that they had problems, many things caused issues between them.

Q1: From the passage you read together, what are some of the factors that led to the relational problems between Joseph and his brothers?

While no one thing caused the problems experienced by the sons of Jacob the words that they spoke to each other were one major cause of problems. As Todd & Brittany pointed out, the first indication of problems comes at the outset of the story.

Read Genesis 37:2.

Q2: What event was the first highlighted by the author of the story of the sons of Jacob?

Q3: Taking the point of view of Joseph, what happened here?

Q4: Taking the point of view of the brothers of Joseph, what happened here?

Clearly, different points of view change the essential elements of the story and how they are interpreted. This can be the case with gossip. What is “just a story” or some “information about a friend” can be the revelation of private or hurtful information.

Here are some guidelines for determining if something is gossip (straight from Todd and Brittany’s message):

  • Gossip is talking about someone when we don’t have all the facts and/or could damage their reputation
  • It is gossip if it will be hurtful to the other person
  • It is gossip if we are making private matters public

Q5: What do members of the group think about these points? Agree or disagree? Why?

But there are times when information gets shared which is not gossip.

  • Gossip isn’t talking to a trusted person about your relationship with someone.
  • Gossip isn’t taking your concerns regarding another person to someone who is able to help them.
  • Gossip isn’t questioning something that someone in authority has said or done.

Q6: Discuss these points. Are there cautions you would have about what is or is not gossip?

So, gossip needs to be stopped. For the sake of other people. For the sake of ourselves. For the sake of our relationships. For the sake of our reputations. Again, from the message, here are some ways to stop gossip.

  • Question yourself and your motives when you speak about others.
  • Avoid conversations which contain or are moving into gossip.
  • Make conversations about other people constructive. 
Next Steps

Our words have such power to build up or to destroy. Regardless of how much pleasure or satisfaction you get from telling stories about others, our needs in those circumstances must always take second place to the needs of other people.

Q1: In what circumstances and with what people are you most prone to gossip?

Q2: Are there words that you speak that you realize could be gossip? Are there people who you need to talk with to reconcile because of the words you have spoken?

Pray together that God would give you insight into those words that you speak about others which could be hurtful to them or to your relationship with them. At the end of your prayer time, speak these words from Psalm 19:14 together:

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.

The Depth (for optional study)

In this section we are providing an in-depth look into the scriptures that the message came out of. There are two critical steps in good interpretation of the Bible. First, we try to understand what the author meant when he wrote the words and how that would have been applied by the original audience. Second, we then take the principles that the original author was trying to get across to his audience and we apply those principles to our own lives. You may want to read some of these passages yourself and/or have people in your group read them together.

Genesis 37:1-11

Jacob settled in the land where his father had lived as an alien, the land of Canaan. This is the story of the family of Jacob.

Joseph, being seventeen years old, was shepherding the flock with his brothers; he was a helper to the sons of Bilhah and Zilpah, his father’s wives; and Joseph brought a bad report of them to their father. Now Israel loved Joseph more than any other of his children, because he was the son of his old age; and he had made him a long robe with sleeves. But when his brothers saw that their father loved him more than all his brothers, they hated him, and could not speak peaceably to him.

Once Joseph had a dream, and when he told it to his brothers, they hated him even more. He said to them, “Listen to this dream that I dreamed. There we were, binding sheaves in the field. Suddenly my sheaf rose and stood upright; then your sheaves gathered around it, and bowed down to my sheaf.” His brothers said to him, “Are you indeed to reign over us? Are you indeed to have dominion over us?” So they hated him even more because of his dreams and his words.

He had another dream, and told it to his brothers, saying, “Look, I have had another dream: the sun, the moon, and eleven stars were bowing down to me.” But when he told it to his father and to his brothers, his father rebuked him, and said to him, “What kind of dream is this that you have had? Shall we indeed come, I and your mother and your brothers, and bow to the ground before you?” So his brothers were jealous of him, but his father kept the matter in mind.

Proverbs 11:13

A gossip goes about telling secrets,

but one who is trustworthy in spirit keeps a confidence.

Proverbs 16:28

A perverse person spreads strife,

and a whisperer separates close friends.

Proverbs 17:9

One who forgives an affront fosters friendship,

but one who dwells on disputes will alienate a friend.

Proverbs 18:8

The words of a whisperer are like delicious morsels;

they go down into the inner parts of the body.

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