After reading Matthew Mitchell's book Resisting Gossip, it's hard not to think that gossip, not sexual immorality or violence, is the great sin of our age. And maybe it is—the ease with which we are able to speak to and about each other grows every day, with new technology helping us get the dirt out on others faster and more efficiently.
Mitchell doesn't allow reductionist definitions of gossip. It isn't simply telling lies, it doesn't stop being gossip if your mom is your audience, and it isn't no big deal. The working definition of gossip in this book is, "Sinful gossip is bearing bad news behind someone's back out of a bad heart."
This is pretty broad, and when Mitchell goes on to identify the five main types of gossipers be warned that you're certain to find yourself in his profiles. Are you the spy? the grumbler? the backstabber? the chameleon? or the busybody? Maybe you're more than one, maybe you used to be one and are now another, but you're sure to see yourself reflected here.
Chapters address the nature of gossip, the reasons we gossip, resisting and responding to gossip, and what to do with the regret you feel at having gossiped. A bonus chapter addressed to pastors lays out strategies for eradicating gossip in church, working toward reconciliation and unity, and how to pray. This chapter is equally valuable for teachers, parents, and small group leaders.
As Ed Welch states in the foreword, Mitchell is able to talk about an ugly sin without ever committing that sin in these pages. There are multiple stories of those who've gossiped and those who've been hurt by gossip, but we never side against the people Mitchell is talking about—as we certainly would if his intentions were less than honorable.
Resisting Gossip: Winning the War of the Wagging Tongue is Gospel-focused and full of practical advice for fleeing temptation, resisting sin, and proactively seeking the good of others through what we say, what we don't say, and even the words we choose to hear. This, ultimately, is the goal: not simply to stop gossiping, but to replace gossip with grace.
Mitchell is a pastor, and this is patently evident throughout the book. He's gentle, gracious, and steeped in the Word of God. If there's a fault, it's that his descriptions of the motivations of the various types of gossipers are reductionistic. But the important parts are all here, and in the end we're pointed to the Throne of God for relief from sinning and being sinned against through the misuse of words.
Review by C. Hollis Crossman
C. Hollis Crossman used to be a child. Now he's a husband and father who loves church, good food, and weird stuff. He might be a mythical creature, but he's definitely not a centaur. Read more of his reviews here
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