There are only a few things more dangerous to a friendship, family, or church than gossip. It can tear apart relationships and build mistrust. There are many scripture verses that deal with gossip in all it’s forms. Today, I want to take a closer look at what gossip is and why it is so damaging.
First, let’s take a look at the word “Gossip”, as defined by the Webster 1828 dictionary:
Gossip – One who runs from house to house, tattling and telling news; an idle tattler. [This is the sense in which the word is now used.] Mere tattle; idle talk
So a gossip is a person who spreads tales from house to house. In today’s world, that would also include blogs, Facebook, websites, etc. A gossip likes to talk and I’m as guilty of it as the next person. It’s too easy to forget that there is a person behind the story. It’s hard to avoid gossip. It’s constantly on TV (even the evening news!) and staring at you from the cover of magazines at the grocery checkout. It’s everywhere. It’s so easy to think that the latest story about some celebrity is just normal topics of conversation…but that is gossip. Whenever you talk (or post) something about another person that you do not have permission to share, you are gossiping. The Bible has a lot to say about gossip:
He that goeth about as a talebearer revealeth secrets: therefore meddle not with him that flattereth with his lips. –Proverbs 20:19
Scripture says here that the talebearer (gossip) reveals secrets and we should not meddle (or associate) with them. They flatter with their lips, but turn and reveal secrets that were meant to be kept to themselves. So, a gossip cannot be trusted.
A froward man soweth strife: and a whisperer separateth chief friends. -Proverbs 16:28
According to the Webster’s 1828 Dictionary, froward means: Perverse, that is, turning from, with aversion or reluctance; not willing to yield or comply with what is required; unyielding; ungovernable; refractory; disobedient; peevish; as a froward child. So, scripture is telling us that a perverse man sows strife and a whisperer (gossip) can separate close friends. A gossip stirs up strife and can end friendships.
Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers. –Ephesians 4:29
According to scripture, we are not to speak in corrupt ways, but what we speak should be used to edify others rather than tear them down. When we build up others we show them the same kind of grace that the Lord gives us. Gossips tear people down instead of building them up. And withal they learn to be idle, wandering about from house to house; and not only idle, but tattlers also and busybodies, speaking things which they ought not. –1 Timothy 5:13
This verse is specifically speaking to women. Too often we let our idleness lead us to doing things we ought not to be doing. We gossip with our friends, telling secrets that we shouldn’t be sharing, getting into each other’s business, and talking about others in a negative way. All of these things can be construed as gossip and are sinful.
But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment. –Matthew 12:36
Scripture tells us that we are accountable for every idle word that we speak and that we will have to give an accounting of them in the day of judgment. How many times have I gossiped will I have to account for? I know, for me, it will probably be many. This is something the Lord has really convicted me on. It’s so easy to slip and not think that what you say is gossip…who does it hurt? But God tells us that we are accountable for EVERY IDLE WORD. For some of us, this will be a lot and something I am not proud to admit.
So why do people gossip? I have found that the main reason is simply not realizing this is what they’re doing. How often do you find yourself chatting with your girlfriends about the latest Hollywood scandal? Or about the odd behavior of a friend or neighbor. What seems like just a fun conversation is truly nothing more than gossip. It’s just as wrong as telling your friend’s secrets to everyone else. This is one of the forms of gossip that I see most prevalent on the internet.
One of the main reasons people gossip is to build themselves up by tearing others down. It gives them a sense of superiority because of the knowledge that they have on other people. These kinds of gossips can be the most dangerous because they share other peoples faults and failings and point to them like a blinking arrow….”look at those people’s faults, not mine”, they seem to say. They share embarrassing and shameful details about another person because they think it takes the focus off of their problems.
Gossip can hurt and can ruin friendships. I know the whole “Sticks & Stones” saying, but truly, gossip can cause damage and hurt. Spreading possibly embarrassing information about others is mean spirited and wrong. And so much that goes on Facebook and blogs can be considered gossip. Instead of going from house to house to tell tales, we just let our fingers do the walking and do it online…where there is a bigger audience and a bigger chance of bigger hurt.
I admit that I’ve played a part in gossip and it’s something that I’m in continual prayer about. It’s just too easy to fall in line and gossip about some celebrity and the more you do it, the easier it is to start doing it about friends and family. Gossip breeds more gossip. Gossip grows more and more with each telling. Before you know it, it takes over too much of your life. Nip the gossip monster in the bud.
But if you have a problem with gossip, how do you stop it? The best way I’ve found is to pray that the Lord helps you with it and to remember to pray for forgiveness each time you slip and gossip. I also avoid anything that might be considered gossip. That means turning the channel, ignoring the magazine covers, and telling friends that you just don’t want to hear the latest gossip they want to share with you. You might lose friends over it. I’ve lost friends because I’ve told them that I didn’t want to hear the gossip they were constantly wanting to share with me.
As Christians we are to love each other and build each other up. We are to think of others and then ourselves. We shouldn’t need to build ourselves up in this manner. Our self-esteem should come from our relationship with the Father, not any other thing on earth. Who wants to join me in saying no to gossip?
Susan Lee Rose