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The Gossip Diet

By February 24, 20116 Comments

Right now I’m in North Carolina for a very brief visit, and with all this running around I haven’t had much time to sit down and compose a blog. So in the spirit of my last post, I thought I would re-post an entry from 3 years ago when I fasted from gossip during Lent. I know that sounds weird, but I explain myself below. Maybe it will give you an idea!

Also, as an update to my last post, my husband decided to give up t.v. for Lent…which basically means I am giving up t.v. for Lent. 🙂 Feel free to ask us how it’s going–accountability on these things is always a wonderful help!

I’ll be back on here when I return safely to Chicago!


This morning I watched one of the most insightful and convicting commentaries on human behavior that I’ve seen in quite some time. And of all places, it was on the Rachael Ray Show.

I don’t normally watch Rachael Ray, but I saw a preview for this particular episode that hooked me right away. She interviewed four friends who decided to diet from gossiping. The way the diet worked was that they would abstain from gossiping for 7 days straight. BUT, if someone broke the diet then they all had to start over. At one point they made it all the way to midnight of Day 6, but someone broke the diet and they were back to square one.

Interestingly, the parameters of the diet were more strict than I would have expected. Not only were they to abstain from talking about people behind their backs, but they also had to avoid reading celebrity gossip magazines and websites. And while seven days doesn’t seem too difficult, it proved to be quite a challenge for these women.

As I followed the story of what the ladies learned during this experiment, I was dumbfounded by their insights. One woman noticed that she developed new ways to gossip without breaking the rules. For instance, instead of turning to her co-worker and saying, “Can you believe how ugly Alice’s sweater is???” she would instead point at the sweater and make funny faces, or she would laugh in a way that communicated her thoughts. No, she wasn’t outright gossiping, but she was still engaging in the spirit of gossip.

Another woman remarked that, in the course of the experiment, her co-workers decided that she was no longer fun to be around. What a telling commentary on the nature of her relationship with them! It certainly forced me to pause and ask myself if my friends would enjoy my company as much if I were to abstain from talking about others.

A third woman came to the wise conclusion that she could best succeed at the gossip diet if she avoided people who would tempt her to gossip. She realized that if she was even around people who were gossiping, she would crack under the pressure and give in, so she began to stay away from people that might pull her down. Again, quite a convicting word of truth–am I spending time with people who encourage me toward godliness, or do my friends and I simply feed off of one another in our slander of other people?

The final statement that really convicted me came from a woman who explained, “I understand that it’s wrong to gossip about your friends, but I don’t feel bad about celebrities because they’re not like real people.” Well Miss Rachael Ray jumped all over that statement and exposed it for its faulty logic. Not only are celebrities real people who get very hurt by the gossip about them, but gossiping about a celebrity is really no different than gossiping about a friend–you are tearing down a person who does not have the chance to defend themselves. That is the definition of gossip.

With all of that in mind, I have a challenge for you. In a week and a half we will be starting the season of Lent, a 40 day period in which many Christians decide to fast in preparation for the celebration of Easter. This year, I am going to fast from gossip.

To an extent, this is somewhat of an absurd fast, because we shouldn’t be gossiping in the first place–it’s not like fasting from chocolate or television. But even so, I want to set aside 40 days of intentional non-gossiping. I am going to ask my friends to hold me accountable in this, and I would encourage you to try it yourself.

And make no mistake, it’s going to be hard. Females in particular are masters at the art of subtle gossip–we can make it look like a prayer request, or that we have been victimized by another woman and we are turning to our friends for moral support, but in the end it is all just dirty gossip. As women of God, as members of the body of Christ, we should be sickened that we do this to one another–funny how it took me watching a cooking show to realize it.


  • NightCometh says:

    Lent isn’t about fasting from things you shouldn’t do anyway. Gossip is a sin. You fast from something that’s NOT a sin, to spend more time with God.

    If you want to try harder to stop gossiping, that’s great…but don’t call it your Lenten fast. That would be like me saying “I’m fasting from looking at porn” or “I’m fasting from cheating on my taxes”.

  • Sharon says:

    Yikes, NightCometh! It sounds like I hit a nerve! As I mentioned in the second to last paragraph of this post, “we shouldn’t be gossiping anyway.” So I clearly agree with you. However, there are some behaviors that walk a fine line between gossip and permissibility. During my Lenten fast I tried to steer as far clear of that line as possible, never watching television shows that mentioned movie stars, never glancing at the magazines at the grocery store checkout counter, that kind of thing. I’m not sure watching E! News is quite comparable to porn or cheating on your taxes.

    In addition to that point, I should also mention that Lent isn’t really about fasting at all. Fasting is a practice that Christians have adopted to meditate on their sinfulness and repent before God. Acknowledging our sins and the ways in which they tempt us is an important aspect of the Lenten season, and 3 years ago I chose to focus on the sin of gossip. I did not mean to make you so irate, but please know that my intentions were Christ-honoring and faithful to the spirit of Lent.

  • Kelly says:

    I like this idea. How did it go for you?

  • Felix says:

    You’re giving up TV? What happens during tournament time? Hope Duke play on Sundays? That’s huge…

  • Carol says:

    Hi again, there is something I do not get yet….I don’t follow any religion, not atheist….but well, as I was telling you in the other post, now I am finding myself really comfortable with the truths and answers budism is giving to me (considering the fact that I ws raised catholic and found that budism is really similar to catholicism and christianism). And why should we meditate and fast about certain bad attitudes only on lent? I think the real challenge is to maintain that everyday asa way of living, and that is the real sacrifice to offer…and not because we were taught to do so, but because we feel it.

  • Sharon says:

    Kelly, it went well! It was a great heart check and I recommend it to anyone!

    Carol, thanks for all your questions. Regarding Lent, there are a LOT of misconceptions about it. First, fasting is not required during Lent. It’s something that a lot of Christians choose to do during Lent to focus their hearts and minds on something specific in preparation for Easter.

    That said, Scripture does not limit fasting to Lent (in fact there is no mention of it in the Bible!), so you are right on that count. Fasting should not be limited to something we do once a year. You might want to check out the post I wrote on Fasting and Intimacy to understand more about the Christian perspective on fasting. It is definitely a practice we do not engage enough!

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