There are several people involved in gossip usually, but primarily there are three and each has a critical role to play in information being handled in a healthy (God honoring) way. There is the one sharing the information (in my experience you are not the only one privy to the information you are being told ... if they are telling you, they are telling others - and that is where it gets really messy,) then there is the person being talked about, then there is the hearer of that information. Each person is responsibly, or should be responsible to handle gossip in a helpful way.
I once had a friend tell me, "Timmy why do you preach against gossip? It's like preaching against breathing ... it's what we all do." He is correct, but it doesn't make it right. Again, we are all guilty of gossip or have been hurt by it.
Q: If someone tells you something and asks for you to not tell anyone, you should ...?
A) Tell everyone.
B) Tell no one.
C) Tell just a few close friends.
D) Tell your best friend only.
Answer: B. I would add here that it might be a good idea to ask them who else they have told, because if they told others there may be a chance the information will leak out and you do not want to be the one blamed for the leak.
Q: If John hears Randy say something bad about Sam, John should ...?
A) Go straight to Sam and tell him what Randy said.
B) Tell Randy he should go settle whatever issues he has with Sam directly.
C) Go tell Sally, Rick, and Paul about what Randy said about Sam.
D) Reprimand John for being a gossiper.
E) None of the above.
Answer: B. I also think that D is an important part of stopping gossip.
Q: What if John does the WRONG thing and tells Sam what Randy said about him?
A) Sam should go straight to Randy to resolve the issue.
B) Sam should tell Sally, Rick and Paul what an idiot John is.
C) Sam should reprimand John for being a gossiper.
D) Sam should just grow bitter and angry toward Randy.
E) None of the above.
Answer: A & C
A lot of times we have people who bring gossip to us and we make the huge mistake of listening and not saying, "hey man I don't want to be a trash dump for your junk, you should go work that out with the person you have the beef with." I know I am guilty of not always handling gossip in a God-honoring way, but I am thankful when someone stops me from gossiping.
I think where Gossip really gets messy is when someone is telling someone what someone else said that was hurtful and wrong. It's like if someone told me that Johnny was fat and ugly and I ran to Johnny to tell him someone said he was fat and ugly ... that's just not nice. Yes the person saying Johnny is fat and ugly is clearly wrong - no doubt, but also the person who ran to Johnny to tell him about it is wrong as well. Why would I want to go tell a person something hurtful? Why would I want to hurt them? Why would I want to stir up strife and dissension? What's my motive? What am I trying to accomplish? What's my heart desire in it? What is the purpose in it?
We might think that, "well Johnny deserves to know what is being said about him." Oh really? So anything we ever say about anyone ever needs to be said to that person by a third party? I don't think we want to live by that rule as it relates to us, do we? When you don't want the rule to apply to you, you know you are wrong in your thinking. When you wouldn't want someone to do it to you, then you shouldn't do it to them. I have had people tell me very hurtful things that people have said about me, and it hurts, and not only did it hurt I did wonder why they would want to tell me that? To hurt me further?
I think the most hurtful parts about Gossip are these two things; one is that when someone is telling someone what someone said you can not be certain you are getting the whole story, or even the correct story. I mean let's be honest, when someone tells me what someone said I can either believe it hook line and sinker, or I can be realistic in my thinking and say, "well there may be some truth in here that needs to be addressed, but I am not going to make any judgments just yet until I speak to this person face to face." And the second hurtful part of Gossip is that relationships are lost or broken or at minimum tainted.
Bottom line is that everyone is hurt because of Gossip ... the one talking, the one listening and the one being talked about! It truly sucks for everyone. Let's all try an do better.