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 show that hooked me right away. She was doing a story about 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 on a benign cooking show. 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, directing her co-worker’s attention to it. She would also make faces or laugh about people in such a way that others new what she was referring to. 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 wasn’t as fun to be around. What a searing indictment of her relationship with them! It definitely 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 avoiding gossip 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.