Posts tagged ‘Gossip’

When Knowledge Isn’t Power

Credit: Karolina Grabowska / Pexels.com

It was Francis Bacon who ostensibly was the first to say, “Knowledge is power.” Whoever actually said it first, it’s been repeated many times – and it’s been believed for much longer than it’s been said.

When Satan shows up in the Garden of Eden, he tempts Adam and Eve with nothing less than knowledge. He tries to get them to eat fruit from a tree that God has forbidden, because it will open their eyes to the knowledge of not only good, but also evil. But Satan says this knowledge will also give them power:

God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil. (Genesis 3:5)

Satan implies that if Adam and Eve can gain the knowledge of God, that will give them power over God. And they fall for it. But instead of gaining power, their new knowledge instead results in death.

One of the wisest men who ever lived, King Solomon, sternly warns against gossip:

The words of a gossip are like choice morsels; they go down to the inmost parts. (Proverbs 18:8 and 26:22)

We are still enticed by gossip, however. Why? Because we believe that knowledge about someone may afford us power over someone. From blackmail to shaming to even manipulating someone with knowledge we know about them that they don’t know we know about them, we still believe knowledge is power. But, like Adam and Eve, such knowledge often leads to nothing but death – death in our relationships, death in our trust of another person, and the death of our ability to talk to someone rather than about someone.

Satan gossiped about God to Adam and Eve and look where it led them. There are some things that are simply none of our business. We don’t need to know. In a culture that loves to know, sometimes, ignorance isn’t just bliss; it’s holy. So, let’s reject gossip about others. For by rejecting gossip about others, we can know God better. And He’s someone we do need to know.

October 31, 2022 at 5:15 am 1 comment

Keeping It Quiet

Data Security

Last week, The Wall Street Journal published a disturbing article on the kind of access that many app developers are able to gain to Gmail accounts, which now number over one billion.  Writing for the Journal, Douglas MacMillan opens his nearly 2,300-word article:

Google said a year ago it would stop its computers from scanning the inboxes of Gmail users for information to personalize advertisements, saying it wanted users to “remain confident that Google will keep privacy and security paramount.”

But the internet giant continues to let hundreds of outside software developers scan the inboxes of millions of Gmail users who signed up for email-based services offering shopping price comparisons, automated travel-itinerary planners or other tools.  Google does little to police those developers, who train their computers – and, in some cases, employees – to read their users’ emails, a Wall Street Journal examination has found.

One of those companies is Return Path Inc., which collects data for marketers by scanning the inboxes of more than two million people who have signed up for one of the free apps in Return Path’s partner network using a Gmail, Microsoft Corp. or Yahoo email address.  Computers normally do the scanning, analyzing about 100 million emails a day.  At one point about two years ago, Return Path employees read about 8,000 unredacted emails to help train the company’s software, people familiar with the episode say …

Letting employees read user emails has become “common practice” for companies that collect this type of data, says Thede Loder, the former chief technology officer at eDataSource Inc., a rival to Return Path.  He says engineers at eDataSource occasionally reviewed emails when building and improving software algorithms.

“Some people might consider that to be a dirty secret,” says Mr. Loder.  “It’s kind of reality.”

This report serves as yet another reminder that the data and conversations one sends and stores on email might be personal, but they are probably not private.  Understanding you is too critical to too many companies who want to market to you.  So these companies, when you download one of their apps, ask you to check a box at the bottom of some long end-user agreement that almost no one reads that gives them permission to sneak-a-peak into your inbox.

This story can serve as a great reminder of the importance – and, really, the sanctity – of keeping a confidence.  Some information, no matter what a legal end-user agreement may allow, is not best morally bought, sold, and shared.  As Proverbs 11:13 pithily puts it: “A gossip goes around revealing a secret, but a trustworthy person keeps a confidence.”

Confidences in our culture are far too easily betrayed.  From a person’s presumably private information being shared and sold by large tech companies under a cloud of legalese to the steady drip of politically laced leaks meant to damage people in public positions to the titillating headlines about this or that celebrity splashed across the front pages of our tabloids to the more modest office gossip that happens around water coolers across America, not only are we bad at keeping confidences, we often delight in breaking confidences if we think doing so will gain us friends and get us power. Unlike Christ, who sacrificed Himself for the sake of others, we, with giddily gossipy tongues, sacrifice others for the sake of ourselves.

Certainly, confidences can never be turned into excuses for cover-ups of sin.  Morally illicit behavior, when it comes to one’s attention, needs to be confronted frankly, even if also compassionately, by someone in a position of authority to do so, which means that sometimes, something that comes to your attention needs to be shared with someone who is equipped to address it.  But it can still be shared in strict confidence for a specific purpose – not to get the word out, but to privately and poignantly call someone to repentance.

At its heart, keeping a confidence is simply a vow to treat people’s tender spots tenderly.  We all have points of pain and shame in our lives.  To be able to share those with a person we can trust is often necessary for healing.  In a culture that delights in the damaging and devastating weaponry of gossip, may we practice the restorative and healing power of keeping a confidence.  As my mother used to say: “Sometimes, you’ve just got to zip your lips.”

This is most certainly true.

July 9, 2018 at 5:15 am Leave a comment


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