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Gossip

We all know gossip is bad.  In Romans 1, Paul lists a variety of sins that condemn people. In this list with sexual sins, murder, and others, he also includes gossip. But what exactly is gossip?

Not everything you say negative about someone else is gossip. There are times when it is okay to warn someone of another person’s character, or to go to others for advice on how to help someone.  We recognize that Jesus warned his disciples of certain people.  For instance, he told them to avoid the influence of the Scribes and Pharisees (Mark 8:15).  Paul names Alexander the coppersmith as someone who did him much harm (2 Timothy 4:14). So how do we define gossip? The truth is it is not easy to define.

Therefore, rather than giving a definition of gossip, I want share with you three categories. These categories are the ones I find in Scripture that help us better understand what is meant by gossip. I hope you will use these categories as an intellectual grid.

3 Categories of Gossip

The first category is gossip includes slandering someone.  To slander means to attack or harm someone’s character with something that is either untrue, or you do not know if it is true. In 2 Corinthians 12:20 the word translated gossip (or some have whisperings) means to slander someone in secret, or slandering with whisper. If what you are saying about someone is untrue, or you do not know whether it is true or not, then when you share it with others you could be gossiping.

The second category is to betray a confidence. There are things that friends or family tell you with the hopes that it will stay between you and them. They do not want others to know, but they have decided to share it with you.   Two different Proverbs come to mind. First, we have Proverbs 11:13 that says a “Gossip betrays a confidence, while a trustworthy person keeps a secret.” Also Proverbs 20:19 says a “gossip betrays a confidence, so avoid someone who talks too much.”  If someone tells you something, believing it will be kept between you and them, then to betray that confidence is gossip.

The final category is connected with the person who is a busybody. The person who simply wants to know everyone’s business and then desires to share it with anyone they can. In 1 Timothy 5:13 Paul uses the phrase “house-to-house.” The imagery is someone finds out something “juicy” about a person, and then decides to make the rounds letting everyone know about it.  The person has idle time on his/her hands and instead of using that time to serve the Lord, uses it to share the latest “important” news.

Effects of Gossip

So why is this bad? Two reasons come to mind.  We are told in Proverbs 16:28 that gossip divides close friends. If someone tells you something that you share, or if you slander a friend behind their back, then eventually you will no longer have that friendship. Proverbs 26:20 states that just like wood adds fuel to a fire, gossip intensifies a fight. Gossip is a relationship destroyer.

Gossip is also a reputation destroyer. Gossip can make others feel differently about a person. It can forever hurt someone.  Once it is out, it can have a life of its own.

A Word of Warning

Let me end with a warning. Gossip is not easy to overcome. We are warned three times in Proverbs that gossip is like a tasty morsel.  When you eat delicious food, your immediate response is to want more. Gossip elicits that same desire within us.  Social scientists state we want more because when we gossip we feel powerful. We have information no one else has and therefore people have to listen to us. We want more because we feel included. It makes us feel like we are part of a group if we are sharing and hearing gossip. And it makes us feel better about ourselves. If we can talk about how bad someone else is, we don’t have to examine our own weaknesses.

Since we know the temptation to gossip is so strong we need to be aware of it and battle against it.  Before you share information about someone else with another person, check your heart, make sure you are not slandering, make sure you are not sharing something you were supposed to keep private, and avoid always being in others private affairs. If we did this we would go a long way in avoiding gossip.

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6 Comments

  1. I thought this was a good article and I appreciated the study that went into it and the practical way you presented the info you found. I was thinking about the second category you mentioned. Often people say something like “If I tell you something, do you promise not to tell?” before they confide in you. I once was in a situation where I answered yes to that question and the person proceeded to reveal something she was doing that was not only immoral but also illegal. I gave ther advise on the specifics of the situation and strongly encouraged her to go to the elders for help and advice. I also told her that in this case I would have to reveal what was going on to the elders if she didn’t do it herself. It was a bad situation for me to be in because I had made that promise. Later, I was talking with a friend (who is a preacher’s wife) in a general way about situations like this and she told me that whenever she can tell that someone is getting ready to tell her something that could be confidential in nature, she makes sure to stop them and let them know that they need to be aware that she will gladly give advice and keep things confidential unless there is something said that she feels HAS to be made known, in which case she will do that if necessary. I have found that advice to be helpful and it keeps me from being in situations where I might have to break a promise that I should not have made.

  2. Wesley

    January 28, 2013 at 4:19 pm

    Thanks for sharing Brenda. That seems like a solid piece of advice.

  3. I am so glad this article is up. I have asked so many times to myself “What exactly is gossip”!. Sincerely this is a blessing because it opens the eyes of people who are ignorant in this topic. It has great information, especially when the study is directly from the Word of God instead of an opinion. Thank you!

  4. yeah!!!!!! I have been blasted by gossip in fact i lost my job because of what they said about me this really really hurts. how do you forgive after something like this???????? disabled and unemployed

  5. This article was so clear and easy to understand. There are some very gossiping people in my fellowship. It truly disturbs me. My closes friend is a gossip and so is her aunt. I have gently said to them I don’t want to hear because I believe its gossip, but it seems there is no stopping them. At times I think maybe I sould let the church know, but then I feel like I’m gossiping. Your teaching has helped me. I will pray and ask the Lord what I should do no matter what the circumstances. I know that their gossip had caused 2 people to leave our church.IF It keeps up there will be more. Thanks and God Bless you !

  6. its a wonderful article thank you very much for sharing it..

    God Bless You

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