Gossip, thy name is woman (and occasionally man). I can imagine you saying, “Yes, we know. Gossip is bad. Don’t do it. Blah blah blah.” And you’re right. It is bad. We shouldn’t do it. We know not to, are taught not to. So why do we insist upon doing it? Why does it come so easily? Why was it so hard for Rachel to give it up as a New Year’s resolution? (That last bit was an example of me watching too much late night sitcom reruns…)
Women like drama. We like to be in the middle of it, to know things. Even those of us who claim to hate drama (I’m pointing to myself here) still like to be aware of what’s being said. We might not spread the gossip or seek it out, but we want to know what it is. We ask our friends to tell us over coffee. We encourage them to gossip to us, while protesting that we’re above it all, that it won’t go any farther than us. Ladies, we are full of it.
I’m not sure what it is about women that make us prone to such gossipy behavior. Men, I’m sure, gossip with their friends as well, but I ‘m pretty sure they wouldn’t be caught dead saying the word “gossip,” nor would they mind coming right out and telling their friends what they think, rather than being all sneaky about it. We ladies try to be stealthy, cunning. The point of gossip is to be subtle and discreet. Those aren’t typically things men pride themselves on. Women take them to an art form. We hone these skills as we get older (though maybe not wiser) and need to fend for ourselves in the real world. Words are our weapons. We sharpen them accordingly.
The moment gossip ceases to be subtle and discreet, it becomes a rumor. That’s right, the “r” word. Rumors are a woman’s weapon unleashed upon society. And they can kill anything in their path. The most common casualty? A reputation. And the only thing a woman holds closer to her heart than her beauty is her reputation.
People spend years cultivating their reputation. But takes one moment to destroy it.
This week, someone spread a rumor that my fifteen year old sister was pregnant. The idea was so laughable at first I thought she was joking. I’m aware that Christian girls in high school can still get pregnant; I’m not obtuse. The purity rings my dad gave us are not chastity belts to which only he holds the key. But if anyone knew my sister, truly knew her, they would see why this was so ridiculous. But it was real. My sister suffered through a day of whispered comments behind her back and disgusted looks directed her way. She told me that it was all she could do not to cry. To make things worse, someone wrote the rumor in a stall in the girls bathroom (way to be classy people). My sister had to go to her English teacher for it to be erased. The part that truly broke my heart? When my sister asked me why no one else could be bothered to erase it from the door.
At youth group tonight, my sister told me she prayed for courage. Courage to face the other kids at school and the courage to ignore the comments being tossed around the halls. She wanted the courage to walk through her school without breaking down, and the courage to be the better person.
My family is one of all girls (save my father, of course). We don’t have older brothers to watch our backs and intimidate the hell out of those who do us wrong. But us sisters love each other fiercely. And I was angry with the boy (men are not exempt it seems) who started the rumor. I wish I could play the older brother and scare the living crap out of the boy who hurt my innocent sister. But I can’t. Besides the fact that the Bible frowns upon such things, it wouldn’t fix the problem. The damage was done. Even when in nine months my sister is most obviously not in possession of a newborn child, everything will still be ruined.
Ruined. It’s a word found in a lot of historical romances (1800s-ish). A girl who was compromised, whose reputation was questionable, who was fodder for the gossip mill, was ruined. No man wanted to marry her. No women would befriend her. Her family didn’t even want her to taint their reputation. She was cast adrift. Her life, as she knew it, was ruined.
While society might be a bit more forgiving nowadays, high school students, particularly freshman, are not. They never forget, they love drama, and they all want attention, their time in the spotlight. Gossip gives teenagers the chance to have all these things. And being able to say you started a rumor? That you knew about it first? You’re in. You’ve arrived. People now want to be you.
But as you make your way to the top of what might be the most insignificant social ladder you will ever climb, let me ask you: Would you want those things said about you? Would you want them said about your sister? Your brother? Your best friend? Would you want to be the receiver of dirty looks? Would you want to wonder if everyone was whispering about you? Of course you wouldn’t. That sounds like a special level of hell.
But for those of us who are quick to say that we aren’t in high school, that we are mature, that we are above it, let me ask you: Where do the younger girls and boys learn it from? Where do they learn its okay? Who do they watch as they are growing up and what do they hear? We adults are carry just as much blame as those teenagers who like to hear themselves talk. We are the poor example. It breaks my heart to think of all the girls like my sister who had to go through this, especially the girls who had to deal with it alone, with Christ to carry them through.
1 Peter 3:10-12 warns us against gossip and rumors:
Whoever desires to love life and see good days,
let him keep his tongue from evil
and his lips from speaking deceit;
let him turn away from evil and do good;
let him seek peace and pursue it.
For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous,
and his ears are open to their prayer.
But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.
To gossip, to spread rumors, to sit back and allow it to happen without standing up, is a sin. More so, it is a sin against another person, one of God’s children. We are all called to be brothers and sisters in Christ. We are called to love each other, to pray for each other, to support each other. So when we allow these evil words to pass our lips or we hear them in silence, we only help those around us in doing evil.
So tonight, I (who is terrible at doing so) pray for my sister and my sisters in Christ. I pray for those who have suffered at the hands of a rumor, and pray for those of us who have heard them passively or spread it farther. I pray for those who don’t want to show their faces, who have lost their friends, who don’t feel loved. I pray for those who feel like they are ruined. Because you are not ruined. You are lovely and beautiful and worthy. You are better than vicious words and demeaning people. You are God’s creation, and you deserve better. I pray that you have courage. I pray that you stay strong in your faith and in Christ. I pray that you find peace. I pray that God allows us to overcome the power of words through His love. And I pray that we can do better and be better.