Stop Gossiping: Conversations to Encourage Your Friends and Glorify God
We are meant to glorify God with every part of our lives, something I’m learning more about in my own life this year. One part of our lives where we can bring glory to God is through our words and conversations.
I think most of us are likely familiar with this verse (or at least the first part):
The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit. – Proverbs 18:21 NIV
Words have power. Words can hurt. Words can build up or tear down.
We repeat these phrases to try to make people be nice and say kind things, but I don’t think the full weight of this idea is grasped.
Words have an effect beyond merely hurting someone’s feelings.
I saw the true meaning of this verse in my life in two conversation I’ve had recently.
One conversation was mainly composed of discussing other people. Our conversation was disguised as concern, but in reality was just plain old gossip. The conversation left me feeling discouraged, down, and a little bit icky.
The other conversation jumped around from topic to topic, like family, travel, and geeky things, but if I was to describe it in one word, that would be UPLIFTING. I left feeling so encouraged and inspired and seen. I was utterly blessed by this conversation.
As I thought about these conversations, I immediately knew what kind of friend and conversationalist I wanted to be – an encouraging one.
These conversations both had a significant impact on my state of mind and my spirit. I had to eat the fruit of the words that were coming out of my mouth and carry the effects with me.
We all know gossip can be hurtful…but why is it really so bad?
The Power of Gossip
Gossiping is negative. “Can you believe what so-and-so said?” “What do you think about so-and-so doing such-and-such?” How could these people say and do such ridiculous and horrible things?
When we gossip, we’re almost always talking about something bad that someone did or something bad that happened.
The topic is negative and the effects it has are definitely negative.
Obviously, there’s the possibility of our words getting back to the person it’s about, which has the potential to be incredibly hurtful.
But gossip has an even more widespread affect than we think.
Even if we aren’t “found out”, those words still affect at least two people – you and the person you’re having the conversation with.
And even beyond that, it affects your relationship with God.
Breaking the Cycle of Negativity
Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. – Ephesians 4:29 NIV
I want my words to build others up, to be uplifting and life-bringing. I want people to leave conversations with me feeling blessed and loved.
Gossip accomplishes the very opposite of this – it is damaging, tears down, and brings pain and death.
If our gossiping words were to make it back to whoever we’re talking about, those words would bring hurt and destruction to that person and that relationship.
Our words may not make it back to the person who was the topic of conversation, where they would do the most damage. But they still have an affect.
When I participate in negative conversations about someone, while I might think it feels good to vent and get it off my chest, I actually find myself growing grumpy and upset and angry, and getting lost in a downward spiral of negative emotions.
We also need to be aware of the affect our words have on the person we are talking with. Is speaking with them about this subject helping them to be uplifted and encouraged? Or are we just dragging them down into a cycle of negativity with us?
Rehashing negative subjects and negative thoughts doesn’t bring any light or life to a situation.
Perhaps most importantly, we must consider how our gossip and negative talk affects God, our relationship with Him, and our witness of Him. Is what we are saying lifting up God? Would He be pleased with our words? Are we being a light and a good representative of God in our conversations?
By participating in gossip, we participate in a perpetuation of negativity.
Gossip helps you persist in your negative view of whatever it is you’re gossiping about. And it also helps you get stuck in a pattern of negativity. Once you start thinking negatively about one thing, it’s easy to stay in that negative loop and start thinking about only negative things and viewing things in only a negative light. Our negativity can quickly spread to all areas of our lives. When we focus on the bad, that is soon all that we are able to see.
Instead we need to break out of that cycle of negativity and be bearers of light!
8 Uplifting Conversation Topics
Gossip is an easy “fall back” topic of conversation – we always have thoughts and opinions to share about other people’s life! But gossip isn’t helping you build relationship and have meaningful conversation. So what do we do when we don’t want to get stuck in that gossip trap? Here are eight ideas for life-giving topics to talk about at your next coffee date!
1) What have you heard/seen/read recently that encouraged you?
This gets you to share about things that you have been doing lately, as well as share some potential encouragement with your friend. Maybe you’ve listened to a podcast or sermon, read a good book, or just got a nice text from a friend that brightened your day. What has brought some encouragement into your life lately? Ask your friend what has brought them encouragement too!
2) What is something new you’ve learned recently?
An easy topic if you’re in school, but if you’re not, don’t think you aren’t learning anymore! Maybe you learned a strange animal fact from a YouTube video, maybe you learned a new word in a foreign language, maybe you learned of a new store opening in your town that you’re excited about. This is a great way to learn with your friends and encourage growth.
3) What is a recent success you’ve had?
We love to share big accomplishments and life moments like graduations, promotions, engagements – but what about the little successes too? Maybe you tried a new recipe and it turned out really great! Or maybe you’ve made some great progress in a goal you have. Celebrate with your friend!
4) What brought you joy this week?
Good weather, puppy cuddles, a new favourite song. Find joy in the little things and share the smiles!
5) What is something you are looking forward to this week/month/year?
What’s got you excited? Talk about the fun things you are hoping for and planning and share in the joy!
6) How has God been speaking to you lately?
If you’re not used to talking about spiritual things with your friends, this one could seem a bit tougher to talk about. But talking about faith is probably the most uplifting thing friends can talk about. Talking about the Life Giver is guaranteed to be a life-giving topic! Get as deep as you want and encourage each other in your faith.
7) What are you dreaming about?
I’m not talking the kind of dreams you have while you sleep (though consider that a bonus topic for when you want to get a little weird); I’m talking hopes and dreams, visions for the future! Travel dreams, business dreams, family dreams, home décor dreams – whatever you’re dreaming about, share and encourage each other to dream big!
8) Plan to do something nice for a friend.
Maybe the urge to gossip is really strong – fight it head on! Instead of engaging in a conversation that would tear down, purposefully start a conversation that is sure to build up! Take that friend that is the topic of conversation and plan a way to show them some love. Maybe you can make a meal and deliver it together or go pick out a little gift they would love. Be active in your love.
Be a Life-Giving Conversationalist
It can be easy to slip into the negative spiral of gossip, but we can learn to bring life to our conversations instead! Our words have the power of life and death, and that power can often extend farther than we expect. When we strive to glorify God with our conversation, we can spread His light to everyone our words reach.
What’s the most meaningful question someone has asked you or the most encouraging thing someone has told you? Let me know in the comments down below!
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