—Doctrine and Covenants 42:27
When we gossip, we idly discuss someone’s weaknesses or problems when that person is not present. Gossip harms not only those who are being talked about, but also those who gossip and those who listen. Heavenly Father wants us to look for and speak of the good in others and eliminate gossip from our lives.
Invite family members to tell what they think of when they hear the word gossip.
What are some other words that have the same meaning as gossip? (Tale-bearing, evil-speaking, backbiting, bearing false witness.)
Read Exodus 20:16 and Doctrine and Covenants 42:27. You could write either or both of these verses on a poster. Emphasize that these verses are more than suggestions from the Lord. The Lord has actually commanded us not to gossip.
How many people are always involved in gossip? (Three—the gossiper, the listener, and the victim—but the victim is not usually present.)
Name the following aspects of gossip. As you do, have the family discuss how each aspect of gossip hurts the gossiper, the listener, the victim, or all three.
Centers on faults.
Is blind to good qualities.
Is often untrue.
Can’t be taken back.
Cuts us off—from the Lord’s Spirit and from other people.
Help your family understand why our loving Heavenly Father has commanded us not to gossip. Point out that gossip only destroys; it never builds. And Heavenly Father wants us to be free of the problems and sorrow it causes. Read several of these verses, which contain the Lord’s promises to those who do not speak evil of others: Psalm 15:1–3; 1 Peter 3:10; Proverbs 21:23; 26:20.
Have each member of your family draw an imaginative picture of gossip. For example, it could have a poison arrow for a head, with poison feathers behind and sharp claws. Use these drawings as a reminder of how dangerous gossip is.
Write the name of each family member at the top of a separate piece of paper. Pass them around in a circle. Have each person write down a good quality of the person whose name is on the sheet or something good that person has done. Continue passing and writing until each person has written on every paper except his own. Then have each person read aloud what is written on someone else’s sheet.
How did you feel when you looked for the good in the rest of the family? When you heard the good others found in you?
Read and discuss the following statement by President Joseph F. Smith:
“Watch constantly for that which is worthy and noble in your fellowman. It makes a person better to see and speak of good in his neighbor; while there is unbounded delight in observing the effect that a few words of appreciation and encouragement have upon men, women, and children with whom we associate.” (Gospel Doctrine [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co.], p. 112.)
Point out that we often think of gossip as talking about a neighbor or friend from school. But gossip can be very destructive within a family. Discuss with your family how looking for the good in each other can make your family stronger and more unified.
Why do we sometimes want to say negative things about others?
Point out that, if we feel insecure about ourselves, we may think that pointing out another’s faults will make us feel better. We may feel threatened or envious about someone else’s success. Or, we may fall into a habit of gossiping without realizing it or think that gossip won’t really hurt anyone.
Tell the following story to help your family understand that seeing the good in others crowds out gossip:
Two friends found they often criticized another friend when she was not with them. They knew this wasn’t good, so they decided to say two good things every time they said one bad thing. It was hard at first, but soon they came to appreciate the qualities of their friend so much that they had no desire to gossip about her.
Together make a list of qualities you admire in others. Name people you know who have each quality. You might write notes to some of these people, telling of your appreciation for them. Or, tell them of your appreciation in person.
Discuss President Joseph F. Smith’s description of the effects of eliminating gossip:
“Happiness, beauty of disposition, love and moral cleanliness, would increase among the Saints; the Spirit of God would delight to dwell in their midst, and the best qualities of people would unfold and develop like the rose in the warm sunshine” (Gospel Doctrine, p. 113).
Point out that the rewards of building others up are eternal—better relationship with others, the ability to love them, Heavenly Father’s approval, and the Holy Ghost’s companionship.
When is it most difficult not to gossip?
Point out that we sometimes feel strong social pressure to gossip among our friends.
How can we avoid joining in when we hear someone gossip?
Try to think of some tactful ways to steer a conversation in a more positive direction when others begin to gossip. For example, an elderly lady, when asked if she could keep a secret said, “Of course. I can keep it going. Better not tell me.” Often, you can change the tone of a conversation by simply saying something good about the victim.
Prepare the members of your family to have the courage to refuse to be a willing listener to gossip. Ask each one to think of a situation where he commonly hears gossip. Ask several people to tell or role-play what they could do.
Point out that everyone is a victim of gossip at one time or another.
How will you react when you know that others have spoken unkindly about you?
Discuss each of these statements:
“My Heavenly Father knows the truth about me. No matter what others may say, I am precious to him.”
Have someone read Doctrine and Covenants 18:10, substituting in turn the name of each family member for the word soul.
“If I don’t forgive, my anger and bitterness will hurt me long after the hurt from the gossip has gone.”
Read this statement:
“It is reported that President Brigham Young … explained that there are two courses of action to follow when one is bitten by a rattlesnake. One may, in anger, fear, or vengefulness, pursue the creature and kill it. Or he may make full haste to get the venom out of his system. If we pursue the latter course we will likely survive, but if we attempt to follow the former, we may not be around long enough to finish it.” (Marion D. Hanks, in Conference Report, Oct. 1973, p. 16; or Ensign, Jan. 1974, p. 21.)
How is being the victim of gossip like being bitten by a snake?
Learning to believe in yourself and forgive the person who gossiped about you is the only happy way to cope. For help in learning to forgive, use the home evening lesson ideas in the chapter on forgiveness.
Psalm 34:13 (Do not speak evil.)
Proverbs 21:23 (Controlling the tongue keeps the soul from trouble.)
Matthew 7:3 (Why notice another person’s fault?)
Luke 6:37 (Do not condemn others, and you will not be condemned.)
John 8:7 (Let him that is without sin first cast a stone.)
James 1:26 (If you do not bridle your tongue, your religion is vain.)
Doctrine and Covenants 88:124 (Cease to find fault.)
Mosiah 4:30 (Watch your thoughts and your words.)
See also “Gossip” in the Topical Guide.
“Nay, Speak No Ill,” Hymns, no. 233.
“Love at Home,” Hymns, no. 294.
“Let Us Oft Speak Kind Words,” Hymns, no. 232.