The Grip of Gossip
About the Guest
Heard any juicy gossip lately? Maybe you should keep it to yourself. Author and pastor Nelson Searcy wonders why gossip has become an acceptable sin outside and inside the church. Nelson warns that gossip destroys relationships, churches, and marriages so we as believers would be wise to think before we speak.
Author and pastor Nelson Searcy wonders why gossip has become an acceptable sin outside and inside the church. Nelson warns that gossip destroys relationships, churches, and marriages.
The Grip of Gossip
Bob: When was the last time you said something affirming / spoke words of praise to your spouse? Here’s Pastor Nelson Searcy.
Nelson: It is, in a way, the fertilizer for both love and respect inside of the marriage; but what happens over time is—this praise that we said when we were dating—it goes away. We begin to take one another for granted. I just want to bring a new awareness to that—of saying, “Let’s, at least, make sure our praises outnumber our criticisms; but maybe / just maybe we could focus even more on praise and eliminate the negative.”
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Friday, October 30th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I’m Bob Lepine. There are a lot of good things you can do with your tongue—with how you speak to others—and there are some not so good things as well. We’ll talk about both of them today. Stay tuned.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us.
Dennis: Heard any good gossip recently, Bob?
Bob: I’m just—I heard about this national radio host who got an email one night at 10:30, and he cussed. I heard that. Is that—
Nelson: That’s been making the rounds—I have to say I’ve heard that too. [Laughter] I’m just saying I’m saying it in love, as a prayer request.
Dennis: Wow; wow. Did that—
Bob: You set yourself up for that one, brother. [Laughter]
Dennis: —did that turn around and bite me? You know, you used to protect me, Bob; but now, you throw me under the bus. [Laughter] Just so folks, who didn’t hear that story, understand—I did say a bad word.
Bob: You let one slip.
Dennis: I did.
Bob: First time in—
Dennis: I wouldn’t say—I don’t want to get into “First time in ‘x’…”
Dennis: I just hadn’t said one—
Bob: —“a while—first time in a while.”
Dennis: Quite a while. It was just appropriate on the broadcast to be able to mention because I think we were sounding a little too pious in here because of you saying the word, “stink”—[Laughter]—
—which we all agreed would become number one on Bob’s Christian replacement words for cursing.
Bob: So, do you say, “Heck?” Do you say, “What the heck?”
Dennis: I think I’ve probably said that.
Bob: See, that’s just a replacement word; right?
Dennis: Yes; yes, I get it. Well, let’s cut to the chase and talk about gossip today.
Bob: Let’s do it!
Dennis: I mean, we’ve been stepping on toes this week. Let’s—
Bob: Let’s step on a few more?
Dennis: Let’s step on a couple more.
Dennis: We’re going to talk about gossip and praising your spouse and your kids today. To help us do that, Nelson Searcy is going to join us on the broadcast. Welcome back, Nelson. I’m surprised you came back with a host—[Laughter] —
Bob: —who is as flawed as Dennis. [Laughter]
Nelson: I’m just glad to be the confessor here—
Dennis: —as flawed as Bob and me—I mean, both of us; huh?
Nelson: —to help you receive your forgiveness, as the pastor.
Dennis: He is the author of Tongue Pierced and pastor of the Journey Church in New York City, Boca Raton, and a number of other spots around the country.
And he’s just stepping on toes big time. Let’s talk about gossip, then.
Nelson: Well, before we do that, I do have a verse for the radio show. This was pointed out to me by another radio host, Bob—it’s from Proverbs 12:23. I don’t think it applies to this broadcast—
Dennis: Good; good.
Nelson: —but it reads—
Dennis: Well, I think, maybe, good.
Bob: We’ll see.
Nelson: —it says: “The wise don’t make a show of their knowledge, but fools broadcast their foolishness,”—is Proverbs 12:23. [Laughter]
Bob: We’ve had our days. [Laughter]
Dennis: Yes, we have. That’s a part of what we try to do, here on FamilyLife Today—is appropriately be authentic to let people know that the God we serve is a God of grace, who meets us where we are in our brokenness, and He helps us grow.
Dennis: That’s what—you admitted earlier that you grew up in a home where cursing was kind of second nature. You’ve struggled with that, as a man, husband, father.
Bob: What about gossip? Have you struggled with that?
Nelson: Well, gossip is sort of the acceptable sin in the church because we all know, Bob, it’s not gossip—it’s a prayer request.
[Laughter] So, I’d like to share a prayer request with you about Dennis; and how I hear his language has been rather loose these days.
Dennis: Or “Did you hear about…?”
Nelson: That’s exactly right.
Dennis: Yes. We do somehow, I think, move to the edge of our seats because everybody likes to be in the know. It really is kind of god-like, in a way—we like to have knowledge that other people don’t have. What is at the root of gossip, though? Is it a power play?
Nelson: Well, at the root of that—plain and simple—gossip is a sin. The Bible talks very clearly about that. When we really back up and think about it, we see how gossip has destroyed organizations. We’ve seen how it has destroyed leaders. Sometimes, it’s not the sin that they actually committed; but it’s the gossip that’s been around the sin. Gossip can destroy a relationship. We can all think of times where gossip has destroyed a church. Inside of a church, we have to be very, very aware of that; but then, gossip can also destroy a marriage and destroy family connections.
So, we have to be really careful.
There is an attraction to gossip. You know, Proverbs 18 [verse 8] says, “The words of a gossiper are like choice morsels”—from the Cheesecake Factory, like you were at—
Bob: Yes, there you go. [Laughter]
Nelson: —the other day—“they go down to the inmost parts.” So, there is something about gossip that we’re all naturally attracted to. It’s part of our sinful nature that we want to know what nobody else knows. We like to think, maybe, other people are doing these bad things. We have to be aware of this decadent temptation, called gossip, and how bad it can be.
Dennis: I think it is a power play of sorts.
Nelson: It is.
Dennis: I think we feel better about ourselves when we can catch ourselves thinking about or passing on news about somebody, who has slipped or fallen or done something stupid or foolish. In the end, we’re trying to make ourselves look better than we really are.
Nelson: We lift ourselves up by tearing others down. That’s exactly right.
Bob: So, here is my question: “How can I know—
—because let’s say I hear something about a pastor in a church, out somewhere, and there has been a problem. I’ve heard about this and I think: ‘I better pass this on to Dennis. I better let him know what’s going on.’ How can I tell whether that’s passing on appropriate information / it’s a prayer request—it’s something that I’m asking him to do? Or it’s just gossip? Is there a way to try and distinguish what’s in your heart at that point?”
Nelson: The best determining factor that I’ve heard is: “Am I sharing this with someone who can do something about the situation?”
Dennis: Or “…who may be impacted by it.”
Nelson: That’s right. So, if it is relative to their life—it impacts them / they can actually do something about it or not do something because of it—then, I think it is appropriate. So, if Dennis was going to speak at that church or was going to be involved with that organization—and you have relative information to that / that can be proven as true—then, you’re passing along truth.
But more importantly, behind gossip, oftentimes, is a lie.
So, we have to be really careful that we’re not just telling lies about someone else. We use gossip as a way to couch this idea that I’m really telling a lie about someone—or at best, an unfounded truth.
Dennis: And there’s where the Internet can be really dangerous today.
Nelson: No, everything you read out there is true; isn’t it? [Laughter]
Dennis: Oh, I’m sorry.
Nelson: If it’s on the Internet, it’s true! [Laughter]
Dennis: I think some of us—perhaps, who are an older generation, now—tend to think of that in that way. I mean, I think if we read it, we believe it. It’s why there are such sites as Snopes and other locations to be able to uncover those things which are true lies.
Nelson: I’m just thinking, right now, someone is posting on their Twitter: “Nelson Searcy said, ‘If it’s on the Internet, it’s true; and Dennis Rainey just agreed with him.’” [Laughter]
Dennis: There you go! There you go! And out of context, that’s a lie.
Nelson: Well, that’s what the Internet has done, and that’s really what social media has done.
It has made it easier/quicker, and perhaps, exponentially increased the impact of gossip.
Bob: Okay. So, you’re on Twitter; right?
Nelson: Reluctantly, I am on social media. That is a whole other issue in and of itself when we think about the tongue-pierced lifestyle—of not only what we say to one another but what we say, online, and how that can be spread so quickly.
Bob: I mean, I’m just sitting here, thinking, “Is Twitter just one large gossip pool?” Or, I mean, there are some people who will post passages from the Bible on Twitter or they’ll—I’ve been watching sporting contests and tweeted about things I’ve seen. I guess there is effective communication there, but it can also be a seed bed for exactly what you’re talking about.
Nelson: Well, you raise a really interesting point—that part of the tongue-pierced lifestyle is words in all of our lives. So, there are the words that we say—which is primarily what we’ve talked about over the last few days—but then, there are the words we put online.
You think about something that I’m a little more familiar with—like Facebook®. If you post something that is unfounded and then I like it—in essence, I’m giving my authority / my agreement to that. I can’t help that I read it because I follow you or I’m friends with you; but I can resist the temptation to spread it, or to indemnify it, or give dignity to it because I like it or pass it along.
Dennis: Nelson, you just used the term, tongue pierced. That’s the title of your book. The tongue-pierced lifestyle is a concept you talk about in your book. Unpack that quickly for the listener.
Nelson: Yes. The idea of tongue pierced—which is, in some ways, a little questionable to use that word. It’s a cultural word, where people literally—like you would do with an earring / they would pierce their ears—they would pierce their tongues for some reason that is unbeknownst to be. I hear it is a horrible, painful thing. But it did hit me that: “What would it look like, as Christians, if we allowed the cross of Jesus Christ to pierce our tongues?” and “Literally, every word we say or—
—now, as we talk about, write online—if every word that we said or presented to others is filtered through the cross of Jesus Christ?” I think this revolution of language that we’ve been talking about could happen if it started with the church.
Bob: You know, I’m thinking about, as you say that, Ephesians 4—I think it’s verse 29—that says, “Let no unwholesome word proceed out of your mouth, but only that which is good for the edification of others.” That’s a good test to begin with: “Is this going to edify others, or is this an unwholesome word?”
Dennis: And the dinner table, for a family, is an important time to really take heed to how you use your words. Barbara and I would be careful about what we talked about in front of the kids because we couldn’t put it in a proper context, where they could understand what was really taking place. So, we wouldn’t talk about matters that we would talk about privately because we didn’t want our words to affect how the children viewed people or circumstances that they were going through.
Nelson: Yes, you know, you raise a point that my wife and I—and with her permission, I can share this—in our family, that dinner table time is so important. I’ve heard it talked about on this show—I know the value of that. But what happens a lot of times is that is a time to share gossip; and oftentimes, it’s where we air our complaints. So, to venture just a little further down the path, beyond gossip—is that this turns into a time of complaining.
Talking about social media, I’ve been struck recently at a meme—I’ve had to learn that word—
Nelson: —that is going about called “First-world problems.” These are things that we complain about that only people in the first-world would complain about—such as: “Downloading the FamilyLife radio show drains my battery too quickly.” Well, that is a first-world problem.
Bob: “The air conditioning is way too cold in here.”
Nelson: That’s it.
Bob: That’s a first-world problem.
Nelson: I find a lot of times, around our little dinner table with my wife and son—that we complain about these first-world problems.
We have been working hard in our family to turn dinnertime into a time of gratitude / a time of thankfulness instead of a time of complaining or just going through the bad stuff that happened in our day.
Dennis: And a time when this can happen is Sunday, after the worship service. A family sits down, and the question is asked, “What did you think about the pastor’s sermon?”
Nelson: Yes, we had the pastor for lunch.
Dennis: We do. I think it’s important, in those moments, for the adults / the parents to take the high road and talk about what was right / what was good, and not train their children in being critical about something that’s really going to be important in their lives for the rest of their lives.
Nelson: You know what? When our kids our little—I often tell my team at the Journey Church, where I pastor—families/parents are going to ask children two things: “Did you have fun?” and “What did you learn?” Well, unfortunately, we stop asking those questions when they get out of the kids’ ministry; but what if we would continue to ask on Sunday, at lunch:
“Okay, what did we learn?”—and then, more importantly—“What did we learn today at church that we can apply to our lives / to our family?” Then, we take the Word of God and we make it applicable to our lives. That’s very wholesome Sunday afternoon talk.
Dennis: One thing we haven’t talked about—and we’ve talked about a lot of things, here this week. We’ve talked about the power of words—curse words—and now, we’ve talked about gossip. We really haven’t spent time talking about the power of praise in a marriage and with children as we raise them.
Too many times—at least, Barbara and I kind of evaluated the words we used with our kids. It’s easy to become critical of how they are not following through on their chores, how they’re being sloppy with their homework, how they’re really sniping at each other and being critical of one another in their sibling relationships. We really set a tone, in our families, that is negative rather than a positive one.
You speak about this in your book repeatedly. Comment on that, if you would, please.
Nelson: Well, there are two words—praise and encouragement—they go hand in hand. Really, no child can have enough of each; and no marriage can be too full of praise and encouragement.
A lot of times, we fall into this trap of picking apart what we don’t like or saying something negative—and there is certainly a time for correction when it comes with our children. Discipline—you spoke about that in many of your resources and given us good guidelines—but at the same time, we have to be aware that praise is part of our family. We praise God on Sunday, but we also praise God daily in our family. And the truth is—if we did more praising of God during the week, we’d probably have a better session of praise on Sunday—but praise is so important. Connected to that is the idea of encouragement.
Dennis: Well, now, before you get to encouragement, let me just stop you at praise and use an illustration that occurred, this past weekend, with Barbara. I performed a marriage ceremony in Houston, Texas.
After it was over, we’re driving back all the way to Arkansas. Barbara just put her hand on my shoulder and just patted my shoulder and she said, “You’re really a good man.” Now, she’s said that before, and that’s a general statement—but she went on to unpack it a little bit—and what she meant by that and what she’d seen me doing.
I don’t know what it was about the moment, but I really did soak it in. It was like—I need to be reminded that, as a man, some of the smaller things we do in life—whether it’s upfront, or behind the scenes, or private—that it really is powerful, that it is sending a message, and that we have a responsibility at that point. If our spouse picks up on that, that can really kind of set that experience apart—like a diamond set in a setting.
Nelson: Yes; and I have an experience, here with you, in the studio today—I can see you being encouraged by that.
Nelson: I can see the energy those words gave you. That’s exactly what happens when those words are spoken—that shows both love and respect, which is, in a lot of ways, the biblical standard for what we offer one another in marriage. Praise cuts across both. Praise shows that we love our spouse. When our spouse praises us—particularly as men—that shows that they respect us. So, it is, in a way, the fertilizer for both love and respect inside of the marriage.
But what happens over time is—this praise that we said when we were dating—it goes away. We begin to take one another for granted. I just want to bring a new awareness to that—of saying, “Let’s, at least, make sure our praises outnumber our criticisms; but maybe / just maybe we could focus even more on praise and eliminate the negative.”
Bob: You had a particularly close relationship with your mom, growing up. Was she good at praising and encouraging?
Nelson: Well, we learn our habits from our parents—that is the first school for most of us. Almost every negative thing that we do with our words, we learned it. Almost every positive thing that we do with our words, we learned it. Now, the good news is—if a habit is learned, it can be unlearned. We have to allow the Scripture to penetrate our heart and to unlearn it.
Now, I happened to grow up with a mother who was very affectionate and very praise-worthy with her words; but I also grew up with a dad who was very distant. And while today, as a follower of Christ—he became a follower of Christ shortly after I did—and thank the Lord for what God has done in his life—but he was a man of no words. He was the strong, silent type. Honestly, I cannot remember a time, as a child, where he spoke a word of praise to me.
Just as you were talking about with your wife, Dennis, I can remember—sometime after he became a Christian, after I was an adult—I can remember a small blessing that he spoke to me. Here we are, 20 years later; and I can still remember that. Today, as God has worked in him and he’s been a Christ-follower for a while, I can see the change that that has had with his words; but I had to work through that because I had to realize that the way my earthly father spoke to me for so long is not reality for how my Heavenly Father relates to me.
Dennis: You don’t know this, probably; but I wrote a book about honoring your parents—called The Tribute, originally / today, it’s called The Forgotten Commandment. And one of the things I have done, here on this show, is ask our guests to come back—after Bob offers the book or the resource they’ve created that we’ve talked about on the broadcast—I’ve asked the guest to come back and give a tribute to their mom and dad.
Rather than wait until the end, I’m going to ask you to do it right now. What I would ask you to do is picture your dad, seated right here, and your mom, right here, at the table—
Nelson: Not hard for me to do—I can picture that.
Dennis: —and you have a chance to look them in the eyes and express words of honor, here on this broadcast, in front of a few hundred thousand people around the country,—
Nelson: Yes, that is sweat you see now coming down. [Laughter]
Dennis: —and just express it in the first person, as a son, to Dad and to your mom.
Nelson: Your book, The Tribute, I actually have an early edition of that. In fact, I think one of my first encounters with this show—that was the monthly offer. I made a donation to the ministry, and I believe that was the book. I can actually see that book, sitting on my shelf, of speaking tribute to my parents.
Mom, I want to thank you for always being there for me—for always providing comfort / for always being the first one to say, “I’m sorry this happened to you,”—or to celebrate with them when something good was there—someone I never had to doubt. You were always there with me, and I never questioned: “Would you be there, or would you not be there?”—you were always there.
Then, to my dad—I call him, “Daddy.” So, I would say:
Daddy, thank you for providing a model of a man who provided for his family, even when things were tough. For a man who modeled integrity—and sometimes, in your business, I knew that you could shave here or there or that you could do things that might advance you financially—but you chose to be a person of integrity. You chose to do things right. And I thank you, now, as a follower of Christ—we share that relationship and share it for all eternity.
Dennis: And I don’t know what your mom and dad would be thinking right now; but undoubtedly, the words of praise and encouragement to them are soaked up because usually moms and dads, near the end of their lives, are quite aware of their shortcomings and how they’ve failed.
What you just magnified were those qualities—a few of them—that they did and did well.
And I think you’re helping folks—whether it be—in marriages, with their children, or in their relationships with siblings, perhaps, as adults—find a way to use words in a powerful way to encourage those, while they are still alive, instead of waiting until they are gone.
Bob: And I’d just say, “I think this is a stinkin’ good book, you’ve writing here.” [Laughter] It’s a—sorry, I had to say—
Nelson: Heck, yes—I would say. [Laughter]
Bob: We have copies of Nelson’s book, Tongue Pierced, in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center. You can go, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com to request your copy.
Click the link you see in the upper left-hand corner of the screen that says, “GO DEEPER.” You’ll see the information about the Tongue Pierced book—how you can order it from us, online. There is also information there about the 30-day devotional. If you’re looking to break some bad communication habits, particularly around cursing, you can download this devotional and use it over the next 30 days. That’s available, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com when you click the link that says, “GO DEEPER.” Or call 1-800-FL-TODAY. That’s 1-800-358-6329—1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then, the word, “TODAY.” Ask how you can receive a copy of the book, Tongue Pierced, by Nelson Searcy.
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Right now, if you can help with a donation, we’d like to send you a thank-you gift for your support. Barbara Rainey has just created a new spool of napkin ties—each one with a different question on it—and it’s designed to make your holiday table a little more festive, but also, to promote conversation around the dinner table. She calls it “Untie Your Story.” It’s our thank-you gift to you when you support this ministry with a donation today. Go to FamilyLifeToday.com and click the link in the upper right-hand corner of the screen that says, “I care,” if you’d like to make an online donation. Or call 1-800-FL-TODAY to make your donation over the phone. Or you can mail your donation to FamilyLife Today at PO Box 7111, Little Rock, AR; and our zip code is 72223.
And with that, we’ve got to wrap things up for this week. Thanks for being with us. Hope you have a great weekend. Hope you and your family can worship together in your local church this weekend, and I hope you can join us back on Monday when we’re going to hear a message about gratitude. It’s the first day of November, and we ought to be thinking about gratitude and thankfulness during November. Actually, we ought to be thinking about it every month; shouldn’t we? That’ll be our focus on Monday. Hope you can tune in for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I’m Bob Lepine. We will see you back Monday for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas.
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