I bet you've said it. I know I have. Might say it again before this column hits the presses. "Did you hear about...? " or "You're never going to believe this, but..." Gossip.

We all do it - whether it's pillow talk with our better half, dishing with our girlfriends, or talking trash on the golf course, none of us is exactly above reproach.

As usual, I'll out myself at the top of the list.

I bring this up because very recently I gave a lesson on the consequences of gossiping to a group of young girls. Eye opening, to say the least. The rumor mill is alive and well in elementary school.

Trouble is, adults aren't much better - not really. Come on. Don't make me confess all by myself!

Scripture is clear in its assessment of the dangers associated with gossip. "A troublemaker plants seeds of strife; gossip separates the best of friends" (Proverbs 16:28).

Why is gossip so tantalizing? Is it because sharing a secret wins favor with another person? Or, because pointing out someone else's shortcomings, bad fortune or mistakes makes us feel better about our own - even for a moment?

While I find it hard at times to stave off the urge to engage in it, I know firsthand what it's like to be the target of gossip. To know, for an undisputed fact, that someone has perpetuated gossip behind your back.

It hurts.

It's stressful.

It puts you on the defensive.

It robs your sense of security and wellbeing, and, makes you obsess over irrational, paranoid thoughts. (At least that was my experience. What about you?)

Because like the game of "Telephone" we played with the girls, gossip rarely gets the story right.

For me, I know the minute something leaves my mouth that shouldn't, I'm "convicted." I get that pit in my stomach. Guilty as charged (sort of like when I yell at my kids to stop yelling at each other). Gossip says something about the perpetrator, and I'd rather use my words to soothe, comfort and uplift others.

Maybe gossip is a way of releasing the tension toward another person, instead of confronting them to resolve a conflict.

I often remind myself of these words from Matthew 18:15, "If your brother sins against you; go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother." It's hard to do. But it's healing.

I think it's healthy to acknowledge that even when we gain the wisdom to know better, we still succumb to the temptation.

Haven't you left a dinner party and chatted with your spouse about that bickering couple? Or told another friend you know exactly why a teacher was fired, or that your neighbor's home was foreclosing?

Might seem harmless, until you start considering what people say about you when you're not there to defend, explain, or even apologize.

By the way - did you hear my column-mate, Colin Noonan, runs a fresh, relevant youth ministry? Now that's some gossip you can feel free to share.

• Ahwatukee Foothills resident Diane Meehl worships, serves and enjoys fellowship at Mountain View Lutheran Church. Reach her at diane@shiftkeycontent.com.

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