There is conflict in one of your relationships. Actually, it’s more than conflict—the situation is becoming toxic. You’re up at night from the stress of it, worrying about it during the day and just not sure what to do. You need to talk to someone about it…but you’re worried that discussing the situation is gossip.
There’s a line between finding resolution through godly discussion and simple venting about a person who’s driving you insane. But the line is very thin and easy to cross! Here are a few tips for discussing a toxic situation without straying into gossip.
Decide if you’re looking for advice or looking to vent
Before talking to someone about the issue at hand, determine whether you’re actually looking for advice. Talking about the person with no end goal IS gossip, and it doesn’t honor God. Unfortunately, our culture calls this kind of discussion “venting” and it’s widely accepted. Psychology studies have revealed that venting about something actually doesn’t grant us more clarity and can increase our stress level! If you’re tempted to vent to a friend, stop and ask: “Am I looking for godly advice on how to deal with this?” If not, don’t talk about it.
Only talk about the situation with one or two people you trust
Another sign you’re gossiping and not addressing the toxic problem is “serial oversharing.” That’s my term for telling all your best girlfriends about the issue…without actually resolving it. If you want to deal with the problem, only talk to one or two trusted friends who can give you trustworthy advice.
Sometimes we talk to our friends about a problem because we already know what they’ll say. We want to be affirmed or justified. While it’s awesome to have supportive friends, we also have a responsibility to honor God and others with our words. Don’t spread news that isn’t honorable; stick to your most trusted friends.
Have a goal before discussing the issue
This is important. Before heading into the conversation, ask: “What’s my goal in discussing this?” This simple question helps me refrain from gossip or reading into the motives of an offender.
If your goal is to vent, you’re not going to care who you’re talking to or what is said. But if your goal is resolution and peace, your conversation will reflect those priorities. You’ll look for advice you can apply and wisdom that’s consistent with Scripture.
Notice when you’re using the situation as an opportunity to gossip
Lastly, be in tune with your own heart. We all know when we’re looking to gossip. We all know that satisfying feeling when we can vent about someone who is driving us crazy. But just because they’ve offended us or caused a relationship rift doesn’t give us the right to gossip. We are still responsible to God for our actions!
Take note of how you’re using the relationship issue as an opportunity to talk negatively about another person. Remember: Gossip changes the opinions of others toward a person. That’s a big responsibility! Do you want them to think negatively of that person every time they see them? Check your heart motives before bringing this up.
Gossip is a “safe sin” and we tend to make light of it. I know I’ve struggled with this myself! But as we allow God to speak to our hearts and listen for the Spirit’s leading for our words, we’ll choose honor over anger every time.