guest post: when in the company of gossips

 

We’re doing a slow-read through the entire book of Proverbs this year during the months of January thru October this year in the church family of which I am a part. We call this project the Insight for Life project. With that project in mind, I invited several friends of mine to submit a brief article on any proverb (or group of proverbs) of their choosing for publication here on my blog. Dan Williams, Vice-President for Church Relations at Harding University, selected Proverbs 20.19 (one of today’s texts to read) as his Scripture to home in on. I commend his thoughts to you. Thank you, Dan, for the good stuff!
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Here’s a rule of life you should never forget:  If people will gossip with you, they will gossip about you.  In his bestselling book, The Speed of Trust, author Stephen M.R. Covey demonstrates that principle by relating the following experience:

Many years ago, I worked in a company where I would go to lunch almost daily with a group of about 12 coworkers. When they finished eating, a couple of people in the group would get up and leave, and the others would immediately start talking about them. When two or three more would leave, the group would talk about them. It got to where I didn’t dare leave the table because I knew the minute I left, they’d start talking about me!

I am sure Covey’s last comment is made in jest, because he must have realized that, short of staying alongside these gossips 24 hours a day, there was no way to avoid being the target of their tawdry tongues.

Rather than remaining in the company of those with loose lips, Solomon recommends an opposite strategy:

“A gossip betrays a confidence; so avoid anyone who talks too much.” (Proverbs 20:19)

According to Solomon, once Covey saw the character of his lunch companions, his best strategy would have been to quickly – and permanently – change tables!  There is no guarantee that avoiding their company would have stopped them from gossiping about him, of course, but it would accomplish three things:

First, it would ensure that others would not interpret his continued association as indicating that he condoned or supported their gossiping.

Second, it would help him to avoid acquiring their bad habit.  Scripture warns us repeatedly that bad character is contagious (Proverbs 22:24-25; 1 Corinthians 5:6; 15:33)!

And third, it would prevent him from accidentally revealing any personal information that would provide ammunition for their tale bearing tongues.

An indiscreet person who blithely engages in the character assassination of others behind their backs has demonstrated that he or she cannot be trusted.  When you find yourself in the company of gossips, Solomon says the best thing to do is get away!