I was an adolescent when I was listening to my Mother and Father commending a practice seen in our friend and pastor. They agreed that he never spoke about a third party and this way avoided gossip, inappropriate disclosure, and presumption. Somehow, hearing that conversation impacted me deeply, so I decided to implement this practice. I know I have had lapses, but I can remember checking myself on many occasions. Even if you complement a third party it serves no good purpose as they are not there to hear it. Of course there are rare exceptions to this rule, but they are obvious and dictated by other necessities.
Did you realize this phrase, “Mind you’re own business” is found in the bible? “… and to make it your ambition to lead a quiet life: You should mind your own business and work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody.” (1 Thessalonians 4: 11-12). The Apostle Paul includes two consequences of minding our own business, 1) that you gain respect of others, and 2) so you will not become dependent on others. The truth of these is that when you refuse to gossip about others and provide for yourself, you demonstrate that you are trustworthy, diligent and respectable. It may be that this is a warning against communism, which is based in dependence on the government.
Some people would be offended to hear this, but gossips and meddlesome people should take heed. Of course, it is ,not a license to go around accusing and telling others to mind their own business. The best way to communicate this is, when others begin to gossip or talk about a third party, to simply not participate or respond in kind. It is not necessary to denounce the person, just say you can’t speak about that and change the subject. Where I have failed I would appreciate this type of correction myself. Another practice is to talk about events, things, ideas or shared experience, rather than people. In a worst case scenario where gossip is the sport, I have just left the conversation. In these ways we help each other guard our speech.
It is a very freeing habit and practice to talk about those things which we should share, rather than falling into a gossip trap. In scripture gossip is in the company of other very wicked acts. Of course there aren’t degrees of sin, but gossip can be very damaging in many ways. I’ve heard people defend gossip by limiting its definition to untrue statements, but anytime we talk about a third party without authority we are probably in a bad situation. I’m not promoting legalism or instituting the “gossip police” but it is better to avoid any gossip. An illustration is where the Lord had told Peter how he would die, then, “Peter turned and saw that the disciple whom Jesus loved was following them. (This was the one who had leaned back against Jesus at the supper and had said, “Lord, who is going to betray you?”). When Peter saw him, he asked, ‘Lord, what about him?’ Jesus answered, ‘If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me.’ ” (John 21: 20-22). This isn’t gossip by Peter, but the Lord’s reply indicates that we should mind our own business and follow the Lord.