Whitesburg KY
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Gossip, rumors grow as they are repeated




Ever hear someone say, “Have you heard any good gossip lately?” or “Have you heard the latest?”? I’m sure most, if not all of you readers, have heard phrases such as these at one time or another.

The gossip hotline has progressed from the picket fence out back to the church social, the telephone, the post office, the supermarket, and now the Internet. But nevertheless, gossip has always been around to tickle the ears of those who seek it. And many will go to extremes to get some juicy gossip when their ears start itching. They get like a reformed drunk. They get the DT’s or withdrawal symptoms. They just have to hear a good rumor.

Gossip is as dangerous as a loaded gun with a hair trigger. If you want a legitimate news item to get spread all over the neighborhood, just tell a likely broadcaster, and tell that individual to be sure to not repeat it. Man oh man, before you can say scat, the gossip hotline will be buzzing like crazy.

Gossip is not only dangerous, it’s habit forming. It has hurt friendships, split up churches, destroyed marriages, toppled corporations, and dashed the hopes of a good number of political candidates.

Each time a rumor is repeated it gets distorted – a bit added here, a bit deleted there – till it obtains the right tone for itchy ears. The ones who start gossip never get any feedback, but then again they don’t want any. They just want to observe the outcome of it all.

One time while I was in college, the instructor told us of a little experiment he had done many times. Since he was on the subject of rumors and gossip, this was a good time to tell us about it. He had a class of 35 students. He went to the student in the back of the first row and said in a low voice, “I need a dozen eggs, a loaf of bread, and a quart of milk.” The students were to pass it along, up one row and down the next, repeating it only once. As the demonstration progressed, he had sat at his desk grinning and awaiting the outcome. He knew that what he had said was going to become blown all out of proportions, as all rumors do.

Nobody ever attempts to find out if a rumor is fact or fantasy, they just repeat it as if it were the gospel truth. When the last student received the message, he asked the student to stand up and tell the class what he had received. The student stood up and proudly said, “They are both gay.”

The message received had gotten distorted as expect. It had absolutely nothing in common to the first instructions given. It had gotten completely out of control right there in the classroom without even going out the door.

My advice to those with itchy ears is this. If you hear a rumor, keep your mouth shut and don’t repeat it. Besides making a fool out of yourself, you could earn yourself a front row seat in a court of law.


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