In 1992, Hurricane Andrew devastated South Florida. Among the victims was the owner of a waterfront exotic fish aquarium. The man loved his fish and, not wanting to see them perish, released them into Miami’s Biscayne Bay.
Sounds reasonable and humane, right?
However, among the fish he set free were six carnivorous Pterois native to Indo-Pacific waters, better known as Lionfish. These six fish multiplied at an enormous rate. As a result, there are now millions of Lionfish spread from Bermuda to North Carolina across the Caribbean and hundreds of miles up the Amazon River. These carnivorous fish are wreaking havoc on native populations of fish such as snapper and grouper, eating their young before they have the chance to mature. Unless something happens, certain Atlantic based species of fish may become extinct.
Here are some facts about Lionfish:
- Lionfish have no natural predators in the Atlantic and Caribbean.
- Adult Lionfish have 18 poisonous spines.
- Female Lionfish produce 30,000 to 40,000 eggs every few days.
- Lionfish are sexually mature in one year.
Who would have thought releasing six fish would have such a devastating impact on the waters surrounding two continents?
As I pondered these facts this past week, I realized that there is another Lionfish with another name in the church, in politics, and in society today. The name of this Lionfish is gossip.
Gossip is something that cannot be contained once it is released. It often does it’s damage and then continues to spread until people grow bored with it, despite the facts.
Here’s one example:
One year before Hurricane Andrew prompted the exotic fish tank owner to dump his Pterois into Biscayne Bay, a rumor surfaced that Tropical Fantasy Soda Pop was actually manufactured by the Ku-Klux-Klan and contained a unique formula which caused sterility among African-American men. Sales dropped 70%. Even though the rumor was discounted, sales never fully recovered and smaller rumors continue to this day.
Here are some facts about gossip:
- As long as there have been people, there has been gossip.
- Percentage wise, men gossip almost as much as women. They just call it marketing.
- People often begin false rumors about themselves. Oscar Wilde once said the only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about.
A pastor I know once said that spreading gossip is like cutting the paper from a notebook into tiny pieces and setting them out for the wind to blow them where they may. No matter how much you try, you’re very unlikely to regather all of the pieces.
How do we stop gossip? It’s doubtful gossip will ever fully be stopped this side of Judgement Day, but here are some steps we can take to remove it (or at least reduce it) in our own lives:
- If possible, don’t be an audience for gossip.
- Make the rumor stop with you.
- Share positive information.
- Pray for yourself and the victim of the gossip.
The Apostle Paul wrote the following advice in Ephesians 4:29:
Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them.
I’ve read that the suggested way many governments are requesting fisherman to deal with Lionfish in the Atlantic is by removing them one at a time. Perhaps this is the best way to deal with rumors and gossip as well.
It’s time for us all to spread good news and speak life to those around us. The world needs our encouragement much more than it needs the Lionfish of gossip.