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Did you know that there is a form of Christian cancer? You may know it better by the more common name of…gossip. It shows up in prayer meetings, board meetings, side bar conversations, “processing” with a friend, and yes, therapy sessions. It is found in Christian institutions where we discuss who has the best vision, most accurate theology, or best ministry method. Like cancer, it spreads quickly from the heart over the tongue, and in just a few minutes, it can be around the country. Spreading happens quickest in cases of juicy moral failings of church leaders. Side effects include increased cynicism, egotism, the freedom to sin against a really bad sinner without penalty, justification of our own flaws.

I confess I am prone to have a case of it. As a counselor I hear all sorts of pain and brokenness in Christian circles. One pastor lacks integrity, another leader is a megalomaniac, another provides dangerous, superficial counseling, and yet another has a farce of a marriage. How will I handle it? Will I tell a trusted friend? Will I “process” with my wife? Where is the line between needed debriefing and gossip? I fear I’m far too willing to cross it at work, church, and the neighborhood.

How about you? In a discussion of church vision, do you criticize the pastor/elders by bringing up unrelated evidence of weakness? In a driveway conversation, do you discuss the neighbor’s recent arrest? In an office discussion, do you discuss a colleague or board member’s mis-steps? Should you?


Phil Monroe is Professor of Counseling & Psychology and Director of the MA in Counseling program. He also directs the newly formed Global Trauma Recovery Institute. You can read more of his musings here.

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