Tag Archive: gossip

Honoring the Absent &Naming the Elephant


If a leader is unwilling to name the elephant in the room, yet is willing to name other people and their issues when they’re not in the room, he’s going to have trust issues… and likely dysfunction as well.

At our church’s recent staff retreat, we heard from Dr. Bill Wilson, director for The Center for Healthy Churches, regarding the issue of trust amongst staff.

Many insightful things were shared, but two ideas resonated with me. Wilson reminded me that when these issues aren’t handled correctly, they not only diminish trust among your staff over time, but they also have potential to elicit an immediate distrustful attitude towards you as a leader.

Naming the Elephant

When you ignore the issues everyone is thinking about, you’re unwilling to name the elephant. And an unnamed elephant grows bigger and bigger. Many other better writers and thinkers have already dealt with the idea of the elephant in the room, so I will just say this… I’ve never so clearly seen the connection between an unnamed elephant and trust.

When you don’t name the elephant and deal with it, it tells others you don’t have guts. That you’ll acquiesce on the harder things… that you’ll push them to the shadows, and hope no one notices. (I’ve written previously on the leader’s responsibility to investigate [elephant] issues.) Ignoring the elephant leads to a lack of trust with small and elephant-sized issues.

Honoring the Absent

Dishonoring the absent has many different forms, but the most common is gossip.

In one of the first talks I prepared in college, I remember telling a group of students that I perceived gossip to be the most common sin amongst Christians. I’m not sure I’d argue that so vehemently today, but as far as public sins of Christians go, it’s likely in the top three.

Like mine, your role likely requires you to discuss people when they’re not in the room. That isn’t necessarily wrong. But at times, our leadership discussions quickly turn to gossip. We’re saying things about people we know we wouldn’t say if they were in the room – and what’s worse, we’re saying them to people who shouldn’t be in the room to hear them.

You must be judicious with your words. At all costs, build others up, especially when they’re not in the room.

There’s way too much clarity in the Bible regarding gossip to argue for its justification. Yet we’ve fallen victim to lowering Biblical standards in this area. It’s a slow descent that can quickly impact how we honor our co-workers, and church members.

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