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Secondary: Standing Assemblies

The Most Powerful Part of Your Body 2: Gossip
By Stuart Kerner


> Suitable for Whole School


> Aim
To think about how easy it is to talk about people behind their backs and how damaging this can be.


> Preparation and materials

  • You will need: a banana, a roll of sticky tape, a tube of toothpaste, a plate, a spoon.


> Assembly

  1. Ask for two volunteers. Give one a plate and a tube of toothpaste. Give the other a banana. Ask the first volunteer to squirt out all of the toothpaste onto the plate. Ask the second to peel the banana carefully. Now give the first volunteer a spoon and the second a roll of sticky tape. Tell them they have 30 seconds to put the toothpaste back in the tube with the spoon, and put the banana back in the skin with the sticky tape.

  2. This should provide some interesting and amusing entertainment for the audience, who can be encouraged to count down the time if you wish.
  3. When the 30 seconds are up, display the results of the volunteers’ attempts, which will probably be rather messy. Thank your volunteers and give them a round of applause.
  4. Tell your audience that words are just like the toothpaste and the banana – once they’re out there they can’t be put back. (If you have used the first assembly in this series, on Hurtful Words, you might like to allude to how hurtful words can be.)
  5. Ask how many of the students have ever had someone talk about them behind their back. How did it make you feel? Depressed? Lonely? Angry?
  6.  

  7. Ask how many of the students have ever spoken about someone else behind their back. You should have a similar number. Ask them to consider why almost all of us indulge in gossip.
  8. Tell them that the Bible has a lot to say about gossip, for instance:

    ‘A gossip betrays a confidence, but a trustworthy man keeps a secret’ (Proverbs 11.13).

    ‘A gossip separates close friends’ (Proverbs 16.28).

    ‘The words of a gossip are like tasty morsels; they go down to a man’s inmost parts’ (Proverbs 18.8).

    ‘A gossip betrays a confidence; so avoid a man who talks too much’ (Proverbs 20.19).

    ‘Without wood a fire goes out; without gossip a quarrel dies down’ (Proverbs 26.20).

    Clearly gossip is nothing new!
  9. Gossip is a temptation for all of us and none of us is immune, but we can learn some strategies that will stop us being dragged into it.
  10. Ask your audience if they have heard of a Christian group called ‘Quakers’ – properly called ‘The Society of Friends’. The Quakers were started in the seventeenth century by a preacher called George Fox. Quakers are passionate about peace and are opposed to war and conflict of any kind.

    In terms of speech, Quakers believe that there are three questions we must ask ourselves before we speak any words to other people:
      • Are they kind?
      • Are they necessary?

      Are they helpful?

  11. If we fail to follow these rules our words can turn us into gossips, and gossip is just like a boomerang – it usually comes back to those who throw it out.
  12. If you find that others often share with you juicy titbits of information about others, consider why they are coming to you. If you openly invite others to share rumours or gossip, they will begin to see you as a willing participant in the gossip game.
  13. If you want to break that mould, try some of these responses to encourage them not to share with you so openly: ‘I am not sure that he would want us talking about his personal life like that. Let’s not talk about that any more.’ Or maybe, ‘I only consider information to be true if I actually hear it from the person involved.’
  14. We can all be tempted to engage in gossip. Consider these questions before you decide to share information about someone else: Does this information build up the person or tear her down? Do I have good reason to share this information? Do I need to verify the accuracy of the information before I share it? Would I be embarrassed or ashamed if the person knew I was saying this about her?
  15. Sometimes keeping information to yourself is the best solution, especially if you are not sure if the information is legitimate. Often this can help stop the rumour and gossip in its tracks. In fact, Proverbs 10.19 says, ‘He who holds his tongue is wise.’

    > Time for reflection

Prayer:

O God,

Take control of our mouths,

that we may speak

no words of anger,

no words of spite,

no words of untruth.

Help us to avoid all words

that may later cause us shame.

Amen.

Reflection:

Let us take care to control the words of our mouths,

that we may speak

no words of anger,

no words of spite,

no words of untruth.

Let us try to avoid all words

that may later cause us shame.


> Follow-up Activity

If you have the opportunity to access the internet with students you might like to get them to take the ‘Are you a Gossip?’ quiz at: http://www.beliefnet.com/section/quiz/index.asp?sectionID=&surveyID=54

Alternatively you might like to adapt it and present it in a printed form.



> Hymn

‘Make me a channel of your peace’


> Music

‘I heard a rumour’ by Bananarama
‘Shut up’ by The Black Eyed Peas
‘Sweet dream my LA ex’ by Rachel Stevens
‘Rabbit’ by Chas and Dave

 


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