Tuesday, July 6, 2010

When Is Gossip Not Gossip?

When is gossip not gossip? That’s easy—when it’s prayer request, of course.

I’ve sat in many a prayer circle when someone will say something like this, “Hey you guys, we really need to pray for Bob and Carol. Bob has been coming home late and talking in whispers on the phone and Carol is pretty sure he’s having an affair. Their son is having trouble in school and it seems the marital problems are affecting the kids.”

Prayer request or gossip?

A few days ago I was at a company meeting. Our manager sat with me and five or six co-workers at a round table. We rarely work together, so this was an opportunity to catch up on one another’s lives and family events, solve work-related challenges, and go over our schedule for the next few months.

Ours is a service-oriented business and we handle hundreds of customers a day. At one point during a lull in the round table conversation one of my co-workers said, “Can I share something?”

She went on to tell a story about an incident that had happened a week or so earlier at the establishment. It seems she was not working on the day in question, but happened to be a costumer. She noticed another costumer wasn’t being served in a prompt manner, so she walked over to the gentleman and said, “Have you been helped?” “No”, the customer snapped (so the story goes), “I have not!”

My off duty co-worker helped the man and his wife. She then went on to tell us that she found the employee on duty (who, by the way, was not be at our company meeting) in the lobby chatting with a small child.

“So I was wondering”, my co-worker said, “did I do something wrong? Should I not have helped the costumer?” The manager praised her for stepping in to help on her night off, and all my co-workers assured her she had in fact done the right thing.

In just a few short minutes she managed to tattle on a co-worker, brag on herself, come off as humble, and get kudos and pats on the back from her peers.

Was she gossiping or was she being a tattletale?

Gossip is an ugly word. But only good and selfless people go out of their way to share prayer requests about other people, right? Surely my co-worker wasn’t trying to make our absent friend look like a slacker, right?

Look, I can’t judge another person’s heart, any more than they can judge mine. I do know, however, that we find all kinds of creative ways to gossip and tell tales about others. It’s human nature to want people to see us in a positive light, and the easiest way to do that is to draw attention to the ugly in somebody else.

So, how many ways are there to gossip? Share your thoughts and experiences.

Get off the pew!

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