For the last couple weeks, we have been discussing the sin of gossip in Sunday school at 2nd Reformed Presbyterian Church. We have been using Matthew C. Mitchell’s book, Resisting Gossip.
A. Speaking with Edifying Ears
Paul exhorts the Ephesians to put off unwholesome talk and put on edifying talk. Mitchel discusses five ways a believer can do this:
First, say nothing at all. It's often been said “If you can’t saying anything good, don’t say anything at all.” When you have the urge to share a juicy piece of news, pause and remember what Christ has done and limit yourself to speaking only edifying speech.
Second, commend the commendable. replace what you were thinking about saying with something kind and uplifting about the person.
Third, talk to the person and not about the person. Perhaps someone has caused you offense. Go to them directly. Do not spread your frustrations to others.
Fourth, offer words of mercy. Speak about them in the best light.
Fifth, if you can't think of anything to say, share a testimony about how God has been good to you or how you're seeing the gospel in a different way.
B. Listening with Gospel Ears
Listening to gossip is just as bad as giving gossip. The reason is that how we listens matters just as much as we say since both stem from our hearts. The key is to having a loving ear that comes from a loving heart.
Mitchell gives four ways we can listen with loving ears.
First, pray and weigh. Sometimes you have just a second to think about how to respond to someone gossiping to you. In that moment, cry to God for wisdom, that his Spirit will direct your words. Also, weight what you have just heard. Do not receive it passively but think about who's speaking, why are they speaking and is this the whole story.
Second, avoid places of gossip. If you know certain environments have a tendency toward gossip then stay away from those places. Also, if someone is prone to gossip around you, avoid being around them. If you cannot avoid them, work to change the topic when gossip is brought up.
Third, cover for the person being gossiped about. Say something along the lines of: “I’m not sure about that, but I don’t think that it is any of our business.”
Lastly, ask the other person if they are willing to go talk to the person about this issue. Offer to go with them. In certain cases, it might be appropriate to say that you will go alone. [they probably will never gossip around you again with this approach.]
One thing that Mitchell emphasis in this section of the books is that this all takes discernment and wisdom. Not of these "how tos" are intended as absolute principles. There is a lot of gray in these matters and before acting on them, take time to pray, weight and seek Godly counsel.