“There are a lot of people in the church upset with you and they want you fired,” the voice on the phone told me, “and since I’m the chairman of the board, I need to let you know that.”
Well that kept me up all night for a week.
I was a young pastor and had just led our community in building a new home for a poor couple whose home had burned down. On a hot summer day in 1991, we had 125 people build a two bedroom bungalow complete with siding, paint, roofing, rough wiring and plumbing, and sheet-rocked. Our little town of 450 did the extreme home makeover edition long before some loudmouthed guy on television made millions doing it.
Yet I was told by the chairman of the board that most of the church was upset with me for doing this project (we raised $18,000.00 in the community in two weeks and only $500 came from the church).
And they wanted me fired; whoever they was.
I was young; exhausted from all the work (my construction background was maxed out trying to prepare 125 people to build a house in day), and so discouraged I wanted to quit. But I’m kind of a hardheaded rascal sometimes so I figured if they were going to fire me, I was going down fighting.
So I asked for a special meeting of the board and anyone in the church. Naturally, this drew a pretty good crowd since I had never done that in the previous seven years as their pastor.
After the formalities of the opening, I just laid it out on the table:
“I understand that the vast majority of the church is upset and wants me fired because we built Donnie and Frances Dent a home.” I explained as coolly as possible. “If that is true, I just really want to know the reasons why.
I can still recall the look of disbelief on their faces. One little old lady who I expected to be a part of the posse spoke up and said, “I’ve been in this community all my life and have never seen the whole town come together like this. I don’t know where who told you that, but everyone I talk to is very proud of this church and you.”
As it turns it, there were three jealous people whining to the chairman and the three became a majority of “they say” and “they are”. The problem was, I had let him do this to me for about two years that he was in office. He’d often use phrases like:
- There are a lot of people talking about (and list some thing I did he didn’t like)
- I can’t tell you who told me this, but you need to know blah, blah, blah
- I really feel like you need to know they are saying blah, blah, blah
- They say you’re blah, blah, blah
So I’d ask him who “they” were, and he’d say, “Well, they asked me not to tell you so I can’t break their confidence.”
Then one day it occurred to me: he was gossiping to me about me. He was giving me information I could do nothing about except stew, fret, and feel horrible. And I was letting him do it.
One day I finally told him: quit gossiping to me about me. He was stunned and argued that he wasn’t. I pointed out that he was basically sharing gossip and negative things he had heard about me -or was making up himself -and that nothing good was coming out of it.
So I told him if he was going to share a negative report about me from someone else, he had to give me their name so I could go talk to them and make it right, or I wasn’t going to listen to him anymore.
He stopped. And I started sleeping much better at night.
If people tell you of gossip going around about you, ask for their source and go to that person and say, “I hear you said (fill in the blank). Give them an opportunity to deny it or watch them squirm with guilt if they said it.
I guarantee you, it is the quickest, easiest, and best way to stop gossip.