Gossip is tasty to its speakers and hearers. “The words of a gossip are like choice morsels; they go down to the inmost parts” (Proverbs 18:8 NIV). A choice morsel is exciting and enticing, swallowed greedily, like potato chips or onion rings. But gossipy words aren’t just a burst of flavor on the tongue; they “go down to the inmost parts,” promising to meet the deep desires of our hearts. Why does gossip taste so good? Ironically, while gossip’s content usually focuses on other people, at its core, gossip is really about me. It promises to make me feel a certain way about myself. We gossip because of what gossip promises to do for us. Therefore, when we gossip, we’re serving and worshiping ourselves (perhaps that’s why Paul lists gossip as a sin of idolatrous people in Romans 1:29).
Jonathan Dodson’s articles have helped me identify gossip’s false promises. Let’s consider four of them it makes to us.
1. “You Are Interesting.”
We all like to feel accepted, and interesting gossip can serve as our entrance badge into a conversation or group. All the more so if the gossip is negative and leads to mutual complaining. Gossiping and griping can be a bonding experience (“Did you hear the latest about our boss?”).
But gossip offers what it can’t deliver. When gossip says, “You’re interesting,” or, “You belong,” it’s lying. To people who thrive on gossip, you’re only interesting as long as your gossip is interesting. When we use gossip to gain access into a community (a church, a workplace, a friendship circle), our words tear apart the very community we want to join.