Q: I’ve been having some trouble with gossip. I keep making excuse for doing it even though I know it is wrong. I don’t realize I’m doing it at that time, but afterwards I notice that it hasn’t helped me get over whatever I was struggling with. How do I stop gossiping when everyone around me is doing it, and what is another way of getting out my frustrations in life?

Gossip is ugly, isn’t it? I’m proud of you, though, for recognizing that you do it and wanting to change! I honestly think that’s the hardest part. Here comes the next hardest part, but I think this really will help you kick the habit. Ready? Here it goes: No matter how embarrassing, when you realize that you’ve just gossiped about someone, stop the conversation and ask forgiveness from the person you’re talking to, and then (when possible and appropriate) from the person you talked about. When I started doing this, I tell ya what–I kicked the habit fast cause it was so stinkin’ embarrassing having to admit the ugly words I had said!

When you admit your own gossip as soon as you hear yourself saying the words, your friends will catch on fast. And if they don’t, I’ve found that at least my Christian friends (who understand that gossip is wrong, even though the habit lingers) take the hint if I phrase it gently, like: “I know you’re upset with so-and-so, but I don’t really even know her and now I already have a negative impression of her. Can we talk about something else?” It also helps to tell your friends that you’re trying to kick the gossip habit and would love their help by reminding you to knock it off when they catch you doing it. Again, if they’re good friends, they’ll help you out, and in the process will become aware of their own gossip. It might become a little game you play: like shouting out a code word when you catch each other starting to bad-mouth someone else.

As far as how to deal with the frustrations of life, I’m a big advocate of journaling. But even there, be careful that the pages don’t become a verbal slaughtering ground. Sure, there will be times you need to hash out a frustrating situation on paper, but focus the bulk of your words on the positive things of life, especially those things you see God doing all around you.

Let me leave you with a few verses you might want to memorize and/or write on a binder or book cover. Then ask God to bring these verses to mind when your mouth begins a shameful tirade bashing some unsuspecting mortal.  (These are all taken from the Contemporary English Version.)

Who may stay in God’s temple or live on the holy mountain of the LORD? Only those who obey God and do as they should. They speak the truth and don’t spread gossip; they treat others fairly and don’t say cruel things.  (Psalm 15:1-3)

It’s stupid to say bad things about your neighbors. If you are sensible, you will keep quiet. A gossip tells everything, but a true friend will keep a secret. (Proverbs 11:12-13)

Gossip is no good! It causes hard feelings and comes between friends.  (Proverbs 16:28)

Foolish talk will get you into a lot of trouble. Saying foolish things is like setting a trap to destroy yourself. There’s nothing so delicious as the taste of gossip! It melts in your mouth. (Proverbs 18:6-8)

Hope that helps, sis!

Love,