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Sanctified Gossip

Women are leaders in grace, conversation, and reconciliation.

You know what odd combinations I love to see most in evangelical home churches? A woman fully living in her femininity, and yet quite not silent in church. It isn't that I wish to defy 1 Timothy 2:12, but that I understand sobriety isn't the absence of speech or the presence of silence. It's that I understand that the works of the Proverbs 31 women are so perfectly aimed the attention lands where she intends --her fine work, her husband, her community. 

Several years ago, I attended a dance that demonstrated traditional femininity and masculinity through honor, sacrifice, respect, and romance. The oddest of statements was issued: women traditionally were the leaders of conversation in society. They hosted spaces for men to converse, and certain women were sought after for invitations because the spaces they held invoked the best discourses. Arguably, these women weren't brazen or given to much debate. They simply made sure the conversation never dulled. 

And yet what does it mean to be a leader in anything? Neither silent, nor loud, but sober-minded, the real message of 1 Timothy 2:12. What a way to overturn the Christian sentiment "women are to be silent" without being a feminist.

A strong community is not one where the women are silent, but where they are the facilitators of wholesome times and good conversations. All they have to do is ask a good question and the men are suddenly put at ease and able to argue and mansplain, occasionally energized with a pretty statement or another question and something nice to eat. 

But a community isn't just about what the women do for the men. That, if anything, is the surface result of something deeper and more beautiful. Men are the direct beneficiaries of a woman's thoughtfulness, grace, and ideas-made-realities. But it is other good women building women up that make all of this attainable and healthy. 

Let's get nerdy for a moment and chat about gossip. Did you know that the word gossip doesn't appear once in the King James Version? I'm sure if appears in other translations, and I'm not a KJV only advocate, but for the purity of etymology and because I happen to only have a Strong's Concordance near me, I don't think it matters if other translations use this word. 

Looking into the etymology of the word, it really seemed to start out with rather well-meaning intentions: someone we know well who we bring into a circumstance with the intentions of having them share good news with everyone else. Eventually it broadened like a good pair of aged hips are wont to do and came to simply mean "anyone engaging in idle talk". 

Check out this interesting article that gives a larger view of the word and how it originally had no derogatory associations

Idleness isn't as much of a sin as the Puritans would have us think. Think leisure, rest, small talk, sharing the simple delights through conversation. As long as it doesn't fall into the territory of slandering your neighbor, gossiping is the natural way of women's speech, and even how men converse when they are done with pontificating their visions. 


To be clear: I am not defending slander. Slander, blasphemy, and malicious talk have no constructive place in our communities, and the scripture is clear that these things are sins (the ninth commandment, Proverb 10:18, Romans 1:29).

 "Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers." Ephesians 4:29 

I could go deeper into why slander is a sin, but most of us already know why through experience and conscious. I would rather circle back to my original point and expound on why women should engage in more gossiping.

Idle Conversation is the Breath of Community 

Without women I'm not sure community could be a sustainable concept. Not only do they feed those that enter their homes and nourish the present moments with gladness and grace, but they also bear children and tell them the stories of old, therefore guaranteeing the success of the future. In this all they remain both sane and soft through intimacy with other women... that is to say by gossiping and with idle conversation. 

What does this idle speech look like? It is not a forgetting of sobriety; it is not a delighting in slandering. It is chit chatting. It is women gathered around their work talking about the things that really matter: their hearts, their flowers that just bloomed, the new recipe they just tried, how Jackie helped mend his sister's sweater, how Karen ended her bickering with her brother by suggesting they skip stones. It is that phone conversation between women that energizes them to clean as they ramble on about the weather and the things Susan and Allie said Friday night. There is laughter, there is lowered voices, there is a sudden burst of energy to do all the things you were procrastinating over. 

When women build these conversations of importance over the everyday things of their life, they are prone to share more. And this is where the waters sometimes get murky, where we touch the line of backbiters and slanderers. But we must face this, too, if the community is to flourish and the women remain happy. Because it is important, we remain honest, even in our pursuit of being kind and graceful. There will be jealousies and malicious deeds done, and they mustn't be shoved under the rug. 

Gossip is Enlightenment for Potential Reconciliation 

 It is hard to face the envy in our heart, but we must do so. I can recall two specific instances where it I could no longer take the tension of hating the woman next to me. 

Once, after months of misery, I simply said, "We hate each other, don't we?" 
"Yes," she said. 
She told me, and we talked it out, eventually laughed a little, and things became more tolerable. 

Another time I told a friend, "I'm so jealous of you right now."
She stared at me, "I'm jealous of you right now, too."
We sat down by each other and said nothing else, just laughed and cried for awhile. 

This approach is probably the most biblical (Matt 18: 15-17) but sometimes we just aren't aware enough of the state of our hearts to know that we hate or envy our sisters or brothers. And this is when constructive gossip can be productive, especially when we have wholesome friends. 

"I'm really mad at -- right now..." As friends we listen, and we sympathize. If the issue is bad enough, we listen for awhile before offering advice. Perhaps we call the other person up and say, "I think you should call --. They are feeling dejected right now." 

That friend might be upset for a bit, too... let them speak their piece. As women, we all know the contentment of ranting. We don't have to really mean all the things we say to each other... we just need to say them. And then we need to be encouraged to forgive and forget and make amends. But often that is only possible after having gushed for a bit to our friends. 

There is a relieved heart that can say "I've been feeling unkindly toward my sister." and then find herself feeling more loving toward her sister. 

Women need to express both their anger and their envy in order to move past it. What roots and grows in silence is to be feared more than an outspoken woman. A sullen, vengeance is the true breaking of homes and communities. But not only is gossip is edifying for the recognizing of our hearts, our love, our anger, and our envy, it keeps us safe. 

Gossip Keeps the Community Safe from Unsavory Folks

Once again, we toe the line of slander in our pursuit of "being the busybody who spreads truth". 

The truth is, most everything is everyone's business if it affects anyone outside of immediate home. To say otherwise is to try and conceal unsavory dealings. Gossip, when done right, is a safeguard against toxic relationships and dangerous people. It allows women to process things they don't understand, and when they do, it is the means of protection for keeping others safe: a constructive warning of another person's degenerated character. 

This is not a justification for tearing anyone's reputation down. Always, even in honesty, first must come benevolence and the desire for reconciliation. Forgiveness and grace must precede all shared truth.

There are many common oral proverbs of religions: it is better to kill a man than to slander his reputation and leave him alive in this unjust death. 

The point is to speak poorly of another's reputation is not a light matter. There is much power in our words. But do not hesitate in speaking truth of this nature. Take this duty seriously and soberly and share in a way that benefits the community at large. Perhaps even the offender will be saved through the confrontation and sudden accountability. But if not, if the reputation is killed, your words are merely the enlightenment of actions done. At the end of the day the burden of our reputation lies solely in the works of our own actions and not in the words of someone else's lips. 

I find it odd that this is even a controversial topic in Christianity. We are all about being truthful and forthright until it comes into the terrain of "gossip". We talk of being one body until actual damage is done between members and then we sanctimoniously claim, "we are minding our own business". I am by no means suggesting the government should have any involvement in these matters, but that the community should not keep sins private and propagate further suffering. 

Choosing to be the good Samaritan is realizing "I am my brother's keeper" and all things are your business if you have eyes to see and ears to hear. Do something about injustice, don't wait for it to get so out of hand that someone calls 911.  

Often this is the job of women. Being naturally inclined to gossiping, they will more readily recognize and address an issue when seen and will do all in their power protect those in their domain. And as long as they keep love and hospitality and generosity at the forefront of all their actions, this is a good thing. This is your Deborah and your Jael. 

Sanctified Gossip

It can be such a beautiful thing when done virtuously. It is a positive way to spread information without paying for a newspaper. It keeps our communities safe; it energizes and educates women. It alerts the community to another's needs or desires, and a food train is organized, or a barn built. It allows us to detract from the toils of our work week and fall into the leisure of dreams and thoughts.

We've been led to believe gossiping is some great sin, and yet much of the church laments a lack of friendships and community. 

Ideas, legalistic and puritan in nature, are part of why community is shriveling.
Instead of discouraging healthy chatter we should sanctify our speech. There should be more trust, care, and insight. These are the pure things of everyday life, or both work and of respite. Think about it... when was your soul last refreshed? When did you last let your guards loose and share idle away the time with some friend chatting over events and experiences and other acquaintances? Give it a try. 

Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.


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