We have all done it. Gossip. It’s something that even the secular world understands as something we should not do. There seems to be a common understanding that gossip is wrong. Nevertheless, we have all partaken in gossip and you can count on the fact that everyone has been the one talking at one time or another. The “gossiper”, if you will.
So why do we gossip, knowing that it’s not right? Let’s take a look at what God says about gossip to give ourselves a good basis to which we understand this term correctly. The term “gossip” in the Old Testament means, “one who reveals secrets, one who goes about as a talebearer or scandal-monger.” It is mentioned in the Bible over 20 times in many different ways, most notably in Leviticus 19:16, “You shall not go around as a slanderer among your people, and you shall not stand up against the life of your neighbor: I am the LORD.” (emphasis mine)
The warning stands firm especially in Romans 1:29-32 (NIV), “They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; 31 they have no understanding, no fidelity, no love, no mercy. 32 Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.” (emphasis mine)
Wow, gossip is placed among murder and God-haters? Here Paul is talking to the people of Rome, those “called to be saints.” (1) He’s talking to believers!
The biblical parameters within gossip includes lies, slander, and secret-revealer to name a few. Those encompass everything we should not use when talking about someone else. Let’s not confuse this command to think He is saying we cannot talk about other people. We are commanded not to talk about other people within the parameters I just mentioned.
Here are a few ways we can guard ourselves from gossiping, being alert to when gossip happens in conversations, and what we can do in our friendships:
- Be a Christian witness by holding your tongue when you feel the temptation to speak poorly of someone. Set the stage for how other people perceive you. This integrity you display by keeping gossip away will outwardly display your character and ultimately the love of Jesus in your heart as well.
- Be careful not to concede gossip by simply listening to it. Let’s not yield to being the listener and reason with our conscience because we’re not spewing the words ourselves. Gossip is toxic to all parties involved.
- Stop your friend from continuing on that path the moment you recognize it. If she says something that is outside of those biblical parameters, gently correct her or steer her off the tangent. Discussions for edifying purposes should first be addressed with that person, and then as instructed in Matthew 18:15-17.
- Love one another in our words about them. Our words should lift up one another, not to alienate them. Even if they are not present. (Ephesians 4:29)
- Be an example of a good friend in those times when you refuse to talk poorly of someone. If you can’t find a good thing to say, stick to circling around the person of interest and focus more on general topics to lead away from bad-mouthing people. It can be tricky with certain people or about certain topics but it’s important that we keep each other in line with God’s Word and build each other up.
- Learn to be open and honest with your friends. Instead of gossiping about a problem you might have, chose to value that friendship with your honesty. Prayerfully confront them with your issues and seek a biblical resolution. They will appreciate your openness if they are receptive to an authentic friendship with you. Most people will respond positively when you use humility to tastefully approach delicate issues as well.
“A dishonest man spreads strife, and a whisperer separates close friends.” Gossip destroys friendships.” Proverbs 16:28
Remember, pray, love, and open.
Friendships grow stronger when they are comfortable being transparent with you. If you don’t gossip about other people, chances are you won’t be gossiping about them either. That creates a comfortable atmosphere for friends in your company.
- Also, friendships grow when you choose to not talk poorly about your friends but choose to show them grace, forgiveness, and love. Simply pray over those thoughts that may be bothering you about the person and decide whether it warrants an open discussion or if your own insecurities are at play. The enemy likes to deceive us and we do fall into jealousy or envy if we aren’t careful. This can stir up problems that are within yourself and not necessarily at the fault of your friend.
Here is a video that I found quite humorous:
While the video is light-hearted and funny, it presents a very clear message about gossiping. Sometimes women don’t know when to stop even when you have clearly directed them elsewhere- they seem to continue retreating to that “place.” In this case, you would then need to set up boundaries.
There is a great post all about boundaries here.
Boundaries in friendships are healthy and in this case, they can keep yourself clean from gossip behavior. It’s crucial that we remain alert and focused on the truths of the Bible.
“A false witness will not go unpunished, and he who breathes out lies will not escape.” Proverbs 19:5
The Bible even compares gossip, breathing out lies, to a false witness. We shouldn’t be brushing this aside. I encourage you to pray over these things, and read more about what the Bible says about gossip.
(1) Romans 1:7