Heard someone use that phrase in a sermon this week and although it was not the focus of the talk, just a quick comment at the very end, it occurred to me that maybe it should have been.
Too often people talk about other people without checking the facts first. They start talking to their friends, spreading rumours and the "killing" begins.
It happens in businesses when a boss decides that someone has complained to HR about something, but never checks with HR or with the employee before spreading it around to the rest of the team and destroying the morale.
It happens all the time in church circles, especially with the women. I've been wondering lately why that is.
Is it because women in churches are taught to "submit" and thus feel like they have no power? Is it because they've been taught that a "real woman" is meek and mild instead of strong and independent and the only way they have to be "strong" is through their shared dislike of someone? Is it because only those predisposed to gossip stick with Christianity and the church? Is it because the christian church isn't really teaching people how to effectively deal with conflict in healthy ways? Does it happen in other religions too? Are muslim, hindu and buddist women sitting around gossiping about one another as well?
I obviously don't have the answers.
But one thing I'm sure of, that preacher was spot on in his pronouncement of gossip as "murder through words"!! Gossip is hideous and it kills the relationships, respect, and reputations of all those involved with it.
I know first hand that it murders a part of the spirit of the one gossiped about (I refuse to use the word victim) And it kills the trust of those who know that person - they're never really sure if what was said is true or not, so they often quit talking to that person. The more the person protests that they've done nothing wrong, the more people back away.
Being the target of gossip kills the emotional sense of joy a person feels when they've been accepted into a group. It kills the belief that those around you are "good people" who are trustworthy and honest. It causes feelings of embarrassment, isolation and shame where there shouldn't be any.
I'd go so far as to say it even murders something inside the people doing the gossiping. Certainly, it must at some level kill off the trust and respect they had for the rest of the group. What's to stop them from turning on you next? After all, it happens all the time. That's why churches split, friendships end and communities fail. In business, careers are wrecked, promotions denied and opportunities lost.
It can be violent, pre-meditated and cold blooded! People are blindsided by it and find themselves disoriented by the shock. They find themselves feeling oddly insecure where once they were confident in their relationships with others. Perhaps they behave in ways they don't even understand as they try to sort out who's still on their "side" and who has walked away from their friendships.
It's not just the target of gossip that has to deal with the consequences either. The person's friends and family are often pulled into the situation in order to provide support. If they're loving, they will take the time to help the person recover. Otherwise, they ignore them and leave them to deal with it on their own, which can lead to depression, as the person withdraws into themself as a way to deal with the pain of being shamed, even when they know they are not guilty.
Gossip is a ghastly thing that can destroy the life of a church, business, or community if it's not stopped!
Women in particular need to learn how to deal with conflict in straight forward, assertive ways. To speak up when someone else is being gossiped about and commit themselves to not be afraid of standing up for themselves when they've been targeted.
We as women need to learn that strength does not come from getting with your friends and talking about someone else when you're offended and it certainly doesn't come from being meek, mild and mousy, like many are taught a "good christian woman" ought to be!
No, it comes from standing up for what is right, checking the facts and speaking directly and honestly to those involved, even at the risk of being misunderstood.
We should all remember the consquences the next time we plan on murdering someone else with our words!