The Bible has quite a bit to say regarding sins of the tongue, and for good reason. Our tongues get us into quite a bit of trouble: grumbling, lying, unwholesome talk, slander, boasting, flattering, piercing words, cursing, and gossip are some examples. Sins of the tongue are something that all of us struggle with in one capacity or another. Today I would like to examine what the Bible has to say about gossip, and offer up some suggestions on how to deal with people who want to gossip to you.
Ladies, I am going to be frank and say something that is probably offensive: gossip seems to be a real problem for women. I am not saying that men never gossip, but when I think about my own personal experiences, the source of gossip is usually the mouth of a woman. I did not come to saving, regenerative faith until well into adulthood, but I did grow up in the church and I have some ideas about why women are prone to gossip. The most obvious, and root issue, is our sin nature. But I also have found from observation, especially that of growing up in the church, that there is a propensity for women to equate intimacy in relationships (friendship) with gossip. Although in this instance gossip is reframed in ladies minds as “sharing”. Somehow, because it seems like intimacy and trust are being built by relaying confidences (even though they are not ours to relay), gossip is given a pass as something that isn’t harmful and sinful, but caring and out of a sense of concern.
More than once growing up, I heard people refer to the ‘prayer chain’ as the gossip chain. A recognition that what was instituted as a helpful way for the body to lift each other up, had become a thinly veiled cover for the sin of gossip. That is really sad. It should grieve the heart of any genuine believer to think about the harm that has been done to other believers, or non believers, under the guise of “sharing” a prayer request, when really it was an excuse to divulge private details that were never meant to leave the lips of the hearers.
Guidelines for eradicating gossip in the believer’s life:
Understand that sharing things that were told to you in confidence, without the permission of the sharer, is gossip. Proverbs 11:13 says “A gossip betrays a confidence, but a trustworthy person keeps a secret.” If someone tells you something in confidence, keep that confidence. No, you may not share it with your Bible study group or small group as a prayer request; you may not put it on the prayer chain. If someone told you something in confidence and asked for prayer, you are fully capable of praying for that yourself. God knows the details and you can place the burden at His feet. ***
If gossip is something that you know you struggle with, pray and confess that sin and ask the Holy Spirit to help you to repent of it (turn from gossiping). Here are some Bible verses, and questions to ask yourself, regarding gossip:
Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear. (Ephesians 4:29) Before you speak, ask yourself if what you are about to say is good for edification? Is appropriate for the need at hand? Will it give grace to those who will hear you speaking?
If anyone thinks himself to be religious, and yet does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this man’s religion is worthless. (James 1:26) Ouch. Do you profess to be a believer? Do you bridle (harness/control) your tongue?
He who conceals a transgression seeks love,
But he who repeats a matter separates intimate friends. (Proverbs 17:9) Do you know something that someone said about someone else? Are you tempted to tell that person, because “they should know”? Check yourself. The Bible says we are to conceal transgressions. If what you are about to say will break a relationship, don’t say it. Likewise, if someone comes to you to report that so-and-so said such-and-such about you to them, ask yourself: what is the motive of the person who is telling me this? Is it to build my relationship with this other individual? Probably not.
A gossip betrays a confidence;
so avoid anyone who talks too much. (Proverbs 20:19) Excessive talking and gossip go hand in hand. If someone repeats a confidence to you, then anything you tell them will likewise be repeated. Also, a warning for us that too much talking on our part can easily lead into gossip.
Without wood a fire goes out;
without a gossip a quarrel dies down. (Proverbs 26:20) Gossip fuels discord. There is no other purpose really, than to fan the flames of controversy. If someone has relayed gossip to you, let it end with you. Don’t repeat it.
How to respond to gossip
We’ve all been there in that uncomfortable spot where someone (an unbeliever) is wanting to gossip to us. What to do? Not too long in the past I was in a social situation where I was with a bunch of acquaintances who were gossiping. I did not want to be a part of it but was unsure of how to get out of the situation without being rude. I was worried that my testimony would be compromised if I sat there passively. One way to handle this type of situation is to try to change the subject. If that doesn’t work, excuse yourself and leave.
If it is a professing believer who tries to gossip to me, I handle it much more bluntly. “Do I need to hear this?” usually shuts the conversation down pretty quickly. Some may feel more comfortable with a less direct “I’m sorry but this feels like gossip to me, can we change the subject please?” If the individual is a Christian, this is all it should take to end the gossiping, draw a boundary for future avoidance of being the repository of their gossip, and free yourself from being drawn into a sinful conversation.
I hope this has been helpful for you all. We all need to be vigilant about gossip, whether it be our own desire to relay it, or being drawn into a conversation with someone else who is gossiping. Our conversations as believers should be edifying: to those participating, and to those who may overhear. What we say should honor the Lord.
Soli Deo Gloria!
*opposite sexes should not be keeping confidences for one another, and no one should require you to keep a secret from your spouse. I assume when confiding, that the spouse will be in the loop, and you may need to get into the habit of clarifying that to individuals who want to confide in you. This is protection of marriage relationships and protection against unhealthy emotional attachments. Please use biblical discretion here.