Nobody likes a gossip. Has anyone ever broken your trust? Have you ever told someone a secret and they shared it without your permission? Relationships are built on the foundation of trust, and gossip deteriorates that foundation quicker and more permanently than anything else. Nobody wants to be friends with a gossip.
The Bible warns about a gossip’s power to destroy relationships. Proverbs 16:28 says, “A perverse man stirs up dissension, and a gossip separates close friends.” Proverbs 20:19 advises, “A gossip betrays a confidence; so avoid a man who talks too much.”
As much as we hate it and know it’s wrong, gossip is a widespread sin among Christians. But we often don’t recognize it because we misunderstand it. We think gossip is a juvenile sin, something teenagers do in their struggle to be popular. But adults gossip just as much as teenagers. It affects what we watch, what we read, and what we talk about.
Gossip is usually defined as spreading rumors about others. This is an incomplete and misleading definition, for gossip goes far beyond making up stories. It has to do with our desire to know things we really don’t need to know. By nature, we are busybodies who love to pry into others’ personal lives. And we love to discuss their personal lives with others who aren’t involved. This is gossip – the desire to know or share information that doesn’t need to be known or shared.
This desire motivates us in more ways than we realize. Consider the popularity of reality TV. These shows have no entertainment value whatsoever, yet people love to watch them and gossip about the characters. Or consider the popularity of celebrity magazines. Although they will never meet, people follow the lives of their favorite celebrities and gossip about them. And don’t forget about Facebook! People are addicted to updates and subject themselves to gossip by posting personal information.
We most often gossip by speaking about others when they aren’t around. If you’re having a conversation and someone who isn’t there gets brought up, you are being tempted to gossip. Before saying anything about them, ask yourself:
- Is this information public or private? Is what I am about to share common knowledge? Has this person shared it with everyone or just me? Be a trustworthy friend – do not publicly share private information. Proverbs 11:13 says, “A gossip betrays a confidence, but a trustworthy man keeps a secret.”
- Does this information need to be known or shared? Does this person really need to know what I’m about to share? Does it really need to be shared? This also prevents us from asking questions that feed our own desire for gossip.
- Am I giving the facts or interpreting the facts? Sometimes talking about people who aren’t around is unavoidable. But when we talk about them, we must simply give the facts and refuse to interpret them. Rather than judging someone’s motives or intentions, just share what they said or did.
- Is this information beneficial? Will others benefit from what I am about to share? Would it benefit the person I am talking about to know that I shared it? Paul tells us, “Let no unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen” (Ephesians 4:28).
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