According to Google, gossip is “casual or unconstrained conversation or reports about other people, typically involving details that are not confirmed as being true.”
The bible talks about how a gossip goes down to our innermost parts (Proverbs 18:8). Gossip is also mentioned in Paul’s list of sins from Romans 1. So we know we shouldn’t do it. The problem is that it is such a shady sin. Differentiating between what is gossip and what is not is half the battle.
I would take Google’s definition a little further: Sharing something that is not beneficial, information that puts a person in a bad light (even if the information is true, but if the information is not necessary), is gossip.
So sad… A juicy tidbit gone to waste. Well, not really. That juicy tidbit could be filled with poison. There are plenty of people who would prefer a severe beating of sticks and stones over the words that have maimed them emotionally.
“Our strength is our weakness,” my mother says. Often, a person who likes to gossip has a strong sense of compassion. We want to help, but we get enticed in the process. We want to know, and then we know too much. We want to communicate, but then we talk too much.
Why does a gossip go down to a person’s innermost parts? What makes us love a good juicy tidbit so much? These desires often come from dissatisfaction or disappointment. We seek to soothe our own insecurities or hurt feelings by demeaning others. Perhaps we even look for opportunities to fix problems in our lives by gathering information—that may or may not be helpful.
When we add negative comments about someone who has offended us, it feels like an analgesic. It is therapeutic to gossip. It releases tension that we hold inside.
Perhaps in our subconscious, we actually want to cause damage to someone who has hurt us, and gossiping satisfies that base human desire.
In the Sermon on the Mount from Matthew 5, Jesus grabs a few sins by the root:
21 “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ 22 But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother[c] will be liable to judgment…..
27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28 But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.
Jesus goes deeper than identifying sin. He penetrates the heart, where anger and lust reside. A decision to murder doesn’t happen overnight. Adultery starts long before you find yourself in a bed that is not your own with a person who is not your spouse. “It’s a slow fade” (Casting Crowns).
So what do you think Jesus would say about gossip?
“You have heard that it was said: do not gossip. But I tell you do not have an evil desire about someone in your heart…” or maybe “But I tell you do not open your mouth to speak unless you have something good to contribute, or unless you are speaking the truth in love.”
I don’t know. The truth is, Jesus didn’t directly address the issue of gossip in the Bible. But I know that like all sin, it is a heart issue.
Two other motivations to gossip are curiosity and a love of drama. Against my better wishes, I am one of those who slows down on the interstate to take a closer look at the wreck. I am the person who will see someone hurting and ask what is wrong. Sometimes it is because I care deeply. But sometimes, if I am brutally honest with myself, it is because I am just plain curious. What is it that makes us enjoy other people’s problems? Why do we like to see a movie or read a book filled with drama? At our very core, perhaps our number one battle has just been identified. Perhaps along with asking God to help us resist gossiping, we need to ask Him to remove the evil weed of drama need.
If we don’t gossip, what are we supposed to talk about? Huh. Well, perhaps that is a problem worth having. I’m pretty sure we can trust God to provide good, wholesome conversation topics. Boring you say? Do you trust Him? He is able.
OR WE CAN JUST ENJOY THE QUIET.
Consider the way the Bible tells stories in the Old Testament. In Genesis 19, Lot had sex with both of his daughters because they wanted to continue the family line. They got their father drunk to make sure that the necessary actions took place. The facts are presented, and you can do with them what you wish. None of this “rumour has it” stuff. Sorry Adele.
You can read about Amnon and Tamar, David and Bathsheba, the Levite and his concubine, and much more “R” rated material in the Bible. But it is presented in such a factual way that a pre-teen could read the story and simply accept it for what it is. It doesn’t give us any “juicy” details. There is no over dramatization or over emotionalization.
The Bible is relating facts to us. So if we are relating necessary facts, I do not believe that we are gossiping. But let’s face it: half the time, we do NOT NEED to be relating anything at all.
Proverbs 19:10: Too much talk leads to sin. Be sensible and keep your mouth shut. (NLT)
The Bible has MUCH to say about taming the tongue, especially in the book of James: it can set the whole body on fire, just by one small spark. (James 3:5)
The best weapon I have against gossip is to SHUT UP. To silence the deadly force that is my mouth. To be the person in a group that stands there and says NOTHING. This is hard for me. I LOVE talking and telling stories.
Yet when I keep my tongue from wagging, I learn interesting and edifying things that the quiet person in the group contributes.
What about when we get stuck with a person or group who is gossiping? Perhaps they are sharing news that is probably true but makes someone look very bad. Perhaps they are revealing information that you are sure the target would never want shared. First of all, BEWARE of such individuals. In all likelihood, you will make their top ten list one day. Don’t kid yourself and think that by listening you become exempt.
If there is a large group around, perhaps walking away is the best bet. However, we have all been in situations where we are carpooling, at a restaurant, or in someone’s home, where frankly, it would be vey awkward just to pick up and leave.
BUT MAYBE IT’S STILL THE RIGHT THING.
I’ll never forget when Mom and Dad made us walk out of the theater during the movie “Who Framed Roger Rabbit.” I’m SO glad they did. I learned that THIS IS AN OPTION: I CAN LEAVE. That lesson was worth every bit of the ticket prices.
It doesn’t matter how embarrassing it is to resist sin. It is always the right thing to do.
When I find myself talking to someone who is clearly revealing things that are better left unsaid, I consider four options:
1: Say “Hey, that sounds kinda gossipy, huh?” (YIKES!!!!)
2: Change the subject.
3: Say positive things about the person being spoken of.
4: Gossip. Just join right in and add my two cents worth.
Honestly, even though it has crossed my mind multiple times, I have never chosen Option 1—except maybe with my husband and children. I chose between 2,3, and –to my shame—4 (this last one more often than I care to admit). Option 1 would work, but would I have to sacrifice a friendship in the process? Maybe that would be for the best… Ugh. I know I need to be willing to make sacrifices for Jesus. Oh Lord, make me strong! Please! Help me to be willing!
Even if Option 1 doesn’t cause my friendship to be sacrificed, I can definitely throw what remains of my cool factor out the window (if I had one in the first place. Ha!). Maybe that needs to happen, too.
I need to trust God to give me wisdom in every situation.
While we lived in Colorado, I took index cards with bible verses regarding talking too much and taped them around the house where my phones were located. Memorizing scripture and prayer are two of the best weapons to fight sin.
Recently, someone posted on FB an article about the socially acceptable sin: gluttony. I would say that gossip is also socially accepted.
Lord, help us. Help us to keep fighting even when the enemy seems too strong. Help us never to give up and give in to this socially acceptable sin. Man looks at the outside, but God looks at the heart (1 Samuel 16:7). God sees the darkness there. Create in us a clean heart, Oh God (Psalm 51:10).