Tag Archives: Gossip

Is Pastor Bruce Gerencser a Theonomist?

Picture by Yuma, Bilboq, and Amada44.
Picture by Yuma, Bilboq, and Amada44.

Last week someone found my blog by searching for this phrase.

It’s stuff like this that makes me wish Google Analytics provided more information about individual searches because I’d love to know who was asking the question and why they were so curious about theological positions held by a former pastor many years ago.

Bruce is actually a friend of mine so we ended up chatting about this odd search phrase shortly after it popped up on my radar. Sorry to disappoint you, anonymous reader, but while he was a Theonomist many years ago he hasn’t been one for a very long time. 😉

Longterm readers already know how I feel about the topic of gossip, but as a social phenomenon it’s a bizarre thing. Sometimes rumours are based on the truth, sometimes they’re based on outdated information, and sometimes the latest gossip about as accurate as the telephone game.

Here’s a modest proposal: instead of assuming or guessing what’s going on with other people…why not just ask them?

I know, I know. The truth isn’t always salacious. Sometimes even people who say controversial things end up being pretty ordinary once you get to know them.

Picture by Laura Bassett.
Picture by Laura Bassett.

Yes, some questions are too prying unless you know the recipient very well, but even then there are ways to circle around a topic if you’re absolutely dying to know and are willing to accept a polite redirection of the conversation if the other party isn’t willing to tread that ground.

Yes, some questions have been asked a thousand times before. You don’t always know which ones they are, though, and ignorance is really only a problem for people who refuse to seek out education on the matter once they’re aware it’s in their blind spot.

So I still say it’s better to have one straightforward conversation than swirl around in speculation.

 

 

The Difference Between Gossip and Telling the Truth

Photo by Ildar Sagdejev.
Photo by Ildar Sagdejev.

This post is a response to Never Say Bad Things About People. 

Imagine living next door to someone whose front yard is falling apart. A beautiful, large tree towers over his house, but as its roots grew they began destroying the sidewalk. What used to be a smooth, flat surface is now an uneven jumble of sharp stone. Your neighbour, Mr. Murphy, knows that his yard is in terrible shape, but he loves the shade his tree provides and he only has enough strength to tend the vegetable garden in his backyard. He also believes that other people have the responsibility to avoid tripping when they walk past his house.

Moving into your new house took much longer than you expected, and it was nearly pitch black outside when you finally rummaged the last load of the moving van just as a gentle storm began. The final box was surprisingly heavy, and in your haste to get out of the rain you didn’t remember the slick, jagged edges of the sidewalk until it was too late.

You still have a scar on your leg from that night. Mr. Murphy made you a delicious apple pie after you arrived home from the hospital, but he refused to pay for your medical bills because he doesn’t think anyone should expect sidewalks to stay flat.

The next spring you noticed someone new moving in on the other side of Mr. Murphy’s house just after supper one night. She is visually impaired but can see large objects when she’s in a well-lit area. The sun is setting, and you see storm clouds rolling in as you chat with her.

Gossip is insisting that Mr. Murphy is an immoral human being who wants her to get hurt. If she knows what’s good for her she’ll never speak to him or accept any of the vegetables from his garden because they’re poisonous.

Telling the truth is warning her about the sidewalk. How she uses this information is up to her,  but at least she now knows how dangerous it is to walk there if you can’t see where you’re going.

What is the Purpose of Gossip?

Someone found this blog recently through this question. Let’s talk about it.

Gossip serves a couple of different purposes:

It provides information about the target.  If what everyone is saying is true “gossip” may provide valuable knowledge about the character of the individual being discussed. I pay closer attention when multiple people tell the same story about someone especially if their tales share eerie similarities, the topic is an illegal or unethical act and not everyone involved is part of the same social circle.

Even this isn’t foolproof, though.

For privacy reasons I’m keeping this story as vague as possible in case anyone more closely connected to it ever reads this post. Many years ago an acquaintance of mine accused someone we both knew of raping her. She reported it to the police but the case was never brought to trial.

Unfortunately the court of public opinion quickly became interested in aspects of her personal life that had nothing to do with whether she was telling the truth. One of my biggest regrets from that time  is that I never turned those asinine questions about sexual history and drinking habits back around on everyone who doubted her.

I’ll never know for sure what did or did not happen that night but I’ve always wondered why so many people jumped to the conclusion that she was a liar given everything we know about sexual assault.

It tells you the truth about the gossiper. Does he or she regularly spread rumours? Have you known him or her to be honest in the past? Would he or she keep talking if the target walked in on the conversation? How would he or she react if their stories were confirmed to be false? I’ve ended more than one friendship based on the answers to these questions.

Respond

This is not to say that I condone spreading rumours about other people. Idle talk does far more harm than good.

I do think it’s important to listen to gossip with one ear, though. If nothing else it will give you an indication of who can and cannot be trusted.

What do you think?

 

It’s Never Just Gossip

Originally posted on January 13, 2011. I haven’t been feeling well lately and am taking a short writing break while I recover.

Let’s begin with a one-sentence working definition of gossip for the purpose of this post: saying or listening to information (true or otherwise) about someone that you wouldn’t feel comfortable participating in if that person was standing next to you.

Between a difficult half-dozen or so years in school and growing up as a preacher’s kid in a series of small, insular towns I spent a good chunk of my childhood avoiding the ridiculous stories other people shared about me and my family.

The most important lesson I learned from those experiences is that it’s never just gossip. Listening to or spreading the latest juicy earful, even if it seems to be harmless speculation, can permanently damage your relationships for the following reasons:

It erodes trust. Most people consistently exhibit the same types of behaviours over time. If someone wants to share the latest titillating rumour about so-and-so I can only assume that they’re saying equally unflattering things about me when I’m not around. This makes it extremely difficult to share anything with them that I’m not ready for the entire world to know and if I can’t trust someone with at least some private or highly personal information we probably won’t be spending much time together in the future.

Words have sharp edges. They can destroy reputations and annihilate a lifetime of trust in one conversation. If I’m going to influence someone else’s life I want to build them up instead of tearing them down. Destruction is easier and faster but the only thing it leaves behind is emotional rubble. I want to be and do more than that.

You don’t know what you don’t know. Outward appearances and our assumptions about what is going on should never be taken as substitutions for the truth. They can point towards it but ultimately we can never truly know what is in the heart or mind of someone else unless and until they tell us.

Criticism is a habit. The more you practice it the easier it is to view others, the world and yourself with a critical and unforgiving eye. We need more grace and acceptance in our lives, not nitpicking or condemnation so this is how I try to treat both others and myself. Criticism does have its place in certain situations…but I believe it is a far smaller one than most people think.

I’d include celebrity “gossip” in this as well. Hearing that so-and-so is getting married, having a baby or won a prestigious award is fine. Rumours about alleged personal problems or nit-picking someone else’s appearance, family status or religious/ethical beliefs are activities that I find rather offensive. If it isn’t something I’d want to be said about me or someone I love why would it be somehow ok to do it to a stranger?

It’s Never Just Gossip

Let’s begin with a one-sentence working definition of gossip for the purpose of this post: saying or listening to information (true or otherwise) about someone that you wouldn’t feel comfortable participating in if that person was standing next to you.

Between a difficult half-dozen or so years in school and growing up as a preacher’s kid in a series of small, insular towns I spent a good chunk of my childhood avoiding the ridiculous stories other people shared about me and my family.

The most important lesson I learned from those experiences is that it’s never just gossip. Listening to or spreading the latest juicy earful, even if it seems to be harmless speculation, can permanently damage your relationships for the following reasons:

It erodes trust. Most people consistently exhibit the same types of behaviours over time. If someone wants to share the latest titillating rumour about so-and-so I can only assume that they’re saying equally unflattering things about me when I’m not around. This makes it extremely difficult to share anything with them that I’m not ready for the entire world to know and if I can’t trust someone with at least some private or highly personal information we probably won’t be spending much time together in the future.

Words have sharp edges. They can destroy reputations and annihilate a lifetime of trust in one conversation. If I’m going to influence someone else’s life I want to build them up instead of tearing them down. Destruction is easier and faster but the only thing it leaves behind is emotional rubble. I want to be and do more than that.

You don’t know what you don’t know. Outward appearances and our assumptions about what is going on should never be taken as substitutions for the truth. They can point towards it but ultimately we can never truly know what is in the heart or mind of someone else unless and until they tell us.

Criticism is a habit. The more you practice it the easier it is to view others, the world and yourself with a critical and unforgiving eye. We need more grace and acceptance in our lives, not nitpicking or condemnation so this is how I try to treat both others and myself. Criticism does have its place in certain situations…but I believe it is a far smaller one than most people think.

I’d include celebrity “gossip” in this as well.  Hearing that so-and-so is getting married, having a baby or won a prestigious award is fine. Rumours about alleged personal problems or nit-picking someone else’s appearance, family status or religious/ethical beliefs are activities that I find rather offensive. If it isn’t something I’d want to be said about me or someone I love why would it be somehow ok to do it to a stranger?