Gossip is one of the most destructive of all human sins. What does God think about it? What biblical principles can we apply to stop gossip in its tracks?
A Definition of Gossip
Let’s first take a look at a secular definition from the dictionary about what gossip is. The definition of gossip includes: Rumor or talk of an intimate nature that is personal and sensational. Something spoken by a person who habitually spreads intimate or private rumors or facts . The words that stand out to me are “personal”, “sensational”, “rumors” and “spreads.” These are spoken by others about someone that can involve rumors or facts, but either way they are private…or at least should be.
A conversation that involves talking about another person when they are not present can include malicious, damaging, rumors or facts. These tidbits can either be true or false. Either way, they are damaging to the person who is not present to hear them. Like a wildfire, gossip can spread rapidly and cover a great many people in a short amount of time. I live in a very small town and it is a frequent occurrence to hear gossip about others. Sadly, there is no way to confirm whether these rumors are true or not. Even if it is true, it’s an invasion of privacy and generally tends to assassinate a person’s character. It degrades the person being spoken about. Gossip devalues them, embarrasses them, and can humiliate them if the gossip gets back to them. I used to work at a small factory and the joke around the shop was, “telegraph, telephone, and tell a machinist.” How true that was. When I heard rumors about co-workers, it rarely made sense to me because I knew almost everyone there after seven years of employment. The vast majority of time it was untrue and I considered it a false accusation. Besides, it was none of my business.
What the Bible Says About Gossip
Proverbs 16:28 A dishonest man spreads strife, and a whisperer separates close friends.
Proverbs 26:20 For lack of wood the fire goes out, and where there is no whisperer, quarreling ceases.
Proverbs 11:13 Whoever goes about slandering reveals secrets, but he who is trustworthy in spirit keeps a thing covered.
Proverbs 26:22 The words of a whisperer are like delicious morsels; they go down into the inner parts of the body.
Proverbs 6:16-19 There are six things that the Lord hates, seven that are an abomination to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that make haste to run to evil, a false witness who breathes out lies, and one who sows discord among brothers.
Proverbs 20:19 Whoever goes about slandering reveals secrets; therefore do not associate with a simple babbler.
Proverbs 17:4 An evildoer listens to wicked lips, and a liar gives ear to a mischievous tongue.
Exodus 23:1 You shall not spread a false report. You shall not join hands with a wicked man to be a malicious witness.
2 Corinthians 12:20 For I fear that perhaps when I come I may find you not as I wish, and that you may find me not as you wish—that perhaps there may be quarreling, jealousy, anger, hostility, slander, gossip, conceit, and disorder.
1 Timothy 5:13 Besides that, they learn to be idlers, going about from house to house, and not only idlers, but also gossips and busybodies, saying what they should not.
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.
Romans 1:29 They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips.
Proverbs 10:18 The one who conceals hatred has lying lips, and whoever utters slander is a fool.
Tips on How to Stop Gossip
Walk Away From Gossip
Those who listen to gossip are just as guilty as those who are spreading it, for if there is no audience, there will be no one to tell or as the Bible says, “For lack of wood the fire goes out, and where there is no whisperer, quarreling ceases” (Proerbsv 26:20). If everyone who began to hear gossip walked away, then the fire would go out. If there is no one to listen, then there will be no one to tell the tale. God commands us to not even be “around as a slanderer” (Leviticus 19:16) nor join in with them (Exodus 23:1). If you are at a job or situation where you can’t walk away, you can refuse to listen or try to change the subject. If you are stuck as a captive audience, read the last tip in the section to find out how you can stop it immediately.
Refuse to Listen
If you refuse to listen to gossip, you’ll be less tempted to pass it on. Even if it’s too late and you’ve already heard it, keep it to yourself, because the Bible says, “but he who is trustworthy in spirit keeps a thing covered” (Proverbs 11:13). If you are a friend of this person or not, please remember that “a whisperer separates close friends” (Proverbs 16:28) and “sows discord” (Prov 6:19).
Distance Yourself from the Gossiper
I know this sounds a little harsh, but if you’ve refused to listen and had to walk away, and they still insist on telling you things that are none of their business, just choose to “not associate with a simple babbler” (Proverbs 20:19). You can’t choose your enemies, but you can choose your friends or at least those who you associate with.
Rebuke the Gossiper
Again, this may be hard to do, but to God “a false witness who breathes out lies, and one who sows discord among brothers” must be told that gossiping is an abomination to Him (Proverbs 6:19). The word abomination simply means that God detests or hates gossip. Maybe they honestly don’t realize that this is wrong, but I seriously doubt that.
Take the Gossiper to the Gossip Victim
This is one of the most powerful means of all to stop gossip in its tracks. I have put it last but it is perhaps the greatest tool to stop gossip and cut it off at the source. One person at work once came to me and offered some unsolicited gossip to me while I was working. I didn’t have the chance to walk away so I simply told the person this: “Hey, why don’t we go talk to Darin (not real name) about what you said. It sounds like he is in some serious trouble. Maybe we can help. If he is having an affair with the secretary, he could get in trouble…or worse, get fired.” If you offer to go and talk to the person being gossiped about right away with the gossiper or tell them what you heard from them, the chances are very good that the gossiper will stop sharing their gossip with you altogether. If you can’t go to them then right away, tell the gossiper that you can talk to the person they are gossiping about when you get home, tell them that you could call them on their cell phone, or maybe go over and speak to them about, in person, what you heard. The person that is the gossiper, I promise, will never want to go to that party about their gossip and tell them to their face what they said. This shows that inwardly they really know that what they are doing is wrong.
Gossip is worse than lying, it:
- is destructive to the person being talked about,
- assassinates a person’s character and good name,
- divides people,
- distorts the truth,
- makes people who gossip not trustworthy,
- exposes what is supposed to be private, and
- above all, violates God’s laws.
God hates gossip because of what it does to all the parties involved. Gossip is sin. We should not stick our nose into anyone else‘s business and not use our mouth to repeat or make itching hears to hear what is none of our business (1 Thessalonians 4:11). There is nothing more destructive that can bring down a home, divide a church, and make enemies of friends. Those who gossip are full of pride because it always wants to make them look better compared to others. No one who is truly humble will talk behind someone else’s back. We know that God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble, so God will resist you who can not tame the tongue (James 4:6).
Gossiping is actually akin to breaking of the commandment to not bear false witness (Exodus 20:16). In fact, “If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless” (James 1:26). The Proverbs forewarn us that “Whoever keeps his mouth and his tongue keeps himself out of trouble” (Proverbs 21:23). Jesus said that “on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak” (Matthew 12:36). We would do well to heed these biblical warnings.
Take a look at this related article on gossip:
Resources – New International Version Bible, The Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright© 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblca, Inc.™ Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.  thefreedictionary . com