Recently on The Patrick Madrid Show, listener Jasmine wrote into the show to ask Patrick about gossip and how to stop doing it:
I have a major question to ask you. I have a problem with gossiping too much and I don’t have self-control. I know it’s a major sin and I don’t know how to stop it. How do I stop it? Please let me know. I know we’re all sinners, but I talk too much.
I got fired from my first job, but that’s because I had to work with people who gossiped and talked badly about me. I’m too innocent and I talk too much. How do I stop this problem?
Patrick began by defining gossip and drawing a line between what is sinful conversation and what is not. When attempting to put a stop to a sinful habit, there is always the danger that one could become scrupulous and too strict with themselves.
Things that do not constitute gossip:
- When parents discuss the behavior of their children, disciplinary issues, performance at school, situations with their friends or classmates.
- When a coworker or authority confides in you about a professional issue that could use your input, advice, or guidance.
- When you are discussing something going on in the news that concerns the greater population such as politics, cultural developments, technology, scandals, etc. (The dissemination of tabloid news that required the invasion of people’s personal privacy or the promulgation of false information would constitute gossip.)
Things that do constitute gossip:
- When you engage in deceiving or misleading conversation behind the subject’s back that seeks to harm their reputation or ruin their life.
- When you reveal somebody else’s secret that other people have no business or right knowing.
As an example, Patrick recalled a story from years ago in which a person involved in a church-like setting had been involved in abortion in some capacity. That fact was not publicly known, but another person was aware of this information and they chose to share it with others around them. Were the subject of this gossip making this information known to others themselves, that would be a different story. But naturally, it wasn’t something they were comfortable exposing and another person taking it upon themselves proved extremely harmful.
“That is a very destructive and evil, malicious form of gossip,” said Patrick. He continued, saying it is up to Jasmine to determine if what she is saying constitutes the sin of gossip and what harm she could be doing.
Patrick offered a simple solution for gossip: Keep your mouth shut.
In the most literal sense, and without the intention of being flippant or disrespectful, keeping your mouth shut is the most effective way of stopping gossip, among many other sins. When you get the urge to say something bad about somebody else, just close your mouth. When somebody asks you to share some serious secret about another person, bite your tongue. And when you sense a conversation taking a turn for the worse into people’s personal lives, disengage.
The tongue is as much a member of the body as the hands, eyes, and ears are. Therefore, we must govern it appropriately. And governance of the body cannot be a passive endeavor. As the saints said, the best way to eradicate a vice is to cultivate the opposing virtue. If you struggle with impurity, cultivate chastity. If you struggle with intemperance and gluttony, cultivate self-control. If you struggle with gossip, cultivate prudence. Think before you act. Contemplate the consequences of your actions before you carry them out.
“Just zip it. Your mouth will get you into trouble if you let it. And all of us are capable of letting that happen.”
Tune in to The Patrick Madrid Show weekdays 8am – 11am CT