Gossip. It is such an ugly word. Unfortunately, gossip happens everywhere; in our neighborhoods, at school or work and among friends, even in the Lord’s church.
Is there a difference between gossip and talking about someone out of concern and a desire to lighten their burdens? Yes, I believe there is.
Inside the LDS Family Home Evening Resource Book, it says, “When we gossip, we idly discuss someone’s weaknesses or problems when that person is not present. Gossip harms not only those who are being talked about, but also those who gossip and those who listen. Heavenly Father wants us to look for and speak of the good in others and eliminate gossip from our lives.” “Gossip,” Family Home Evening Resource Book (1997), 191
Sometimes our curiosity wants answers. We want to know who said what, why it was said and how it affects us, but we must be cautious in what we do with that information.
We will often find ourselves in crowds who want to talk about other’s situations to bolster themselves up somehow. How should we handle it? Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf gave us the best counsel yet. He said, “This topic of judging others could actually be taught in a two-word sermon. When it comes to hating, gossiping, ignoring, ridiculing, holding grudges, or wanting to cause harm, please apply the following:
“It’s that simple. We simply have to stop judging others and replace judgmental thoughts and feelings with a heart full of love for God and His children. God is our Father. We are His children. We are all brothers and sisters. I don’t know exactly how to articulate this point of not judging others with sufficient eloquence, passion, and persuasion to make it stick. I can quote scripture, I can try to expound doctrine, and I will even quote a bumper sticker I recently saw. It was attached to the back of a car whose driver appeared to be a little rough around the edges, but the words on the sticker taught an insightful lesson. It read, “Don’t judge me because I sin differently than you.” Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf, “The Merciful Obtain Mercy”, General Conference, April 2012.
There was only one man who walked this earth who remained sinless and it is He who grants mercy to those who are trying to do their best. When it comes to judgement and gossip, stop it. Don’t participate in it. Don’t let it continue. Change the direction of the conversation. Just stop it.
I remember still a day in middle school many years ago. We had finished class and were just leaving for the day when I found a folded piece of paper on the floor. I picked it up and opened it only to read words about myself that were untrue. I don’t know who was passing the note back and forth, but I remember worrying about how people now believed something erroneous and I would be judged for that for the rest of my school life. That was difficult.
How do we put an end to it? Instead of joining the conversation, say something kind about the person. For example; “You know, Sarah is a really good friend. She is as loyal as they come, I hope I can be as good a friend to her as she is to us.” It’s also perfectly acceptable to walk away from a group when you aren’t feeling comfortable with what is happening.
There will be plenty of times in life when you will have to choose how to respond. President Thomas S. Monson said, “May we maintain the courage to defy the consensus. May we ever choose the harder right instead of the easier wrong. As we contemplate the decisions we make in our lives each day—whether to make this choice or that choice—if we choose Christ, we will have made the correct choice” (“Choices,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2016, 86).
Sometimes you yourself will be the subject of gossip for your choice but you will be able to have confidence knowing you acted on the harder right. Remember, that we are all called to be a light in the darkness as we take upon us Jesus Christ’s name. May our words and our attitudes always reflect His light and love.