There are many sides to gossip. Sometimes it’s a sin. Other times it’s not gossip at all. How you think about and respond to what others say about you will make all the difference in the world.
You may want to read:
- Ep. 25 How to Talk Behind Someone’s Back
- When Confidentiality Is Smuggled Into Christianity
- Should I Keep My Friend’s Sin Secret?
A pastor friend told me many years ago, “Rick, you’ll always have gossip in the church.” His words were not discouraging to me. It was another reminder that “Adam ever liveth.” Sin is real in our world, and it is real in me.
Sin should be more sobering to the Christian than discouraging because we have hope in the gospel. If we did not have hope because of Christ, we should experience more discouragement than sobriety.
Our hope is in a risen Redeemer who forgives us of our sins, declares us not guilty, and gives us His righteousness. But the gospel is more profound than that: we will be guiltless throughout eternity.
He will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. – 1 Corinthians 1:8
The tendency for most of us when we think about gossip is to focus more on those who have said things about us than giving appropriate reflection about ourselves. Let me put the question to you:
When you first hear the word gossip, what do you think about first? Do you think of yourself, the Savior, or others?
It’s a fair question and how you answer that question will reveal a lot about your heart motives. Our first thought should be about the Savior, of course.
He is the only one who can solve any sin problem, which is why any sinfulness should motivate us to cast our gaze upon His cross first. It’s the cross of Christ that annihilates sin.
Another reason we should think of Christ first is because sin besmirches His reputation. Gossip is not primarily about you or me; it’s about Him. His name is on the line, not ours.
He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. – Psalm 23:3
Our primary objective in life is to make God’s name great. When sin happens, the God-centered Christian experiences grief because of the trashing of our heavenly Father’s reputation.
Our second thought should be about ourselves. The gospel-centered Christian will always be more aware of his sin than the sin of others. If you do not think of yourself as worse than the other person, you need to stop and address your heart.
The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. – 1 Timothy 1:15
Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? – Matthew 7:3
When gossip happens, it is easy to lose track of who the biggest sinner is in the room. Guard your heart, my friend. Though it may be hard to take, what you did to Christ is infinitely worse than what someone said about you.
Before you address them, ask yourself a few reflective questions. I’m not saying their sin is your fault, or you should forget about it, but I am saying your second call to action cannot be about the gossiping person.
- Why are they talking about you?
- Did you do something wrong?
- Are you unapproachable, to the point that they are tempted to gossip?
- Have you addressed any culpability on your part? How do you know that you have?
Your third thought should be on the person with the (gossip) “speck” in their eye. Gossip is a sin. And gossip hurts. You want to love the gossiping person well.
Gossip is a behavioral sin that comes from the heart. You must ask yourself why the person is saying these things. There is nearly always more going on than someone talking about another individual.
- Is your primary goal to shut down the gossip?
- Are you more about how it hurts you, or do you want to understand the motive that is underneath the gossiping tongue?
- Do you believe that a person should never talk about you behind your back? I hope not.
What Is Gossip?
Gossip is saying hurtful or unkind things about a person to another person. The receiver of the gossip may not know the person who is being talked about by the gossiper. And the recipient of the gossip is not part of the problem or the solution.
The sin of gossip is more about the motive of the gossiper’s heart than anything else. Gossiping is also a form of anger.
But no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. – James 3:8-9
Let’s pretend you have children, and somebody is saying unkind things about one of your children. This idea is what James is getting at in his “tongue chapter.”
Gossip is a twofer: The person is sinning against your child, and he is sinning against you. Your name is on the line because he is your son.
When someone is gossiping against one of God’s children, the gossiper is not only trashing God’s child, but he is trashing God’s name too. It’s a horrible sin.
When Someone Gossips About You
Before you get bent out of shape about what they said, ask yourself if there is any truth in their gossip, as harsh as it may be. Maybe there are some areas where you need to change.
I don’t think that there has ever been a time when someone has gossiped about me, where there was not something that I needed to address in my life.
Don’t dismiss the person out-of-hand because their motive and methods were sinful. Ask God to help you see His merciful correction through their uncharitable communication.
Recently, Lucia and I were walking through a graveyard in Mexico. I enjoy visiting cemeteries, reading the markers, computing how long the people lived, and wondering how they lived.
It was so intriguing that I did a Facebook Live to share what I was seeing. As for the deceased, it did not matter to them what I said. They were unmoved (literally) by our words.
For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. – Colossians 3:3
If you over-struggle with gossip, I have some bad news for you: you ain’t dead yet. There remain vestiges of self-righteousness in your soul that tempts you to fire back or straighten someone out for their gossip.
Gossip is not about you primarily. The name that matters the most is the name of the Savior. Whose approval are you seeking?
If you’re a Christian, the gospel informs you that God approves you wholeheartedly. Because you accepted the works of Jesus instead of your efforts, as it pertains to your salvation, you are received by God entirely.
The only opinion that truly matters is His opinion of you, and His perspective states that you are ultimately and wonderfully accepted.
It should not matter what others say about you. But if it does matter, you are not resting in Christ’s righteousness entirely, but still believe there is something about you that is worth defending, which is self-righteousness.
When Someone Gossips to You
Separate from Them – You may need to cut off the gossiper by no longer relating to them. You want to discern if this person is a serial or episodic gossiper. A fool is a serial gossiper, and you may not be able to help them.
Appeal to Them – Maybe you should appeal to them to go back to the person that they are talking about with you. (Don’t do this if the relationship is abusive.)
Do Not Defend Yourself – If someone is sharing gossip that they heard about you, there may be a temptation to defend yourself by talking about them. Don’t do that. A friend of mine taught me to respond this way:
Would you like for me to say some bad things about them so you will feel better about me?
When someone trashes your name, you are tempted to bring your perspective to the story, which inevitably puts the gossiper in a bad light. What does that accomplish?
They shared some garbage about you to a friend, and you shared some trash about them to the same friend. That is biblical immaturity.
Be Like Christ
There are many other truths you can apply to “gossip scenarios,” but it would turn this piece into a book.
- If someone is gossiping to you, ask them to stop.
- If you are tempted to gossip, don’t go there.
- If someone gossips about you, seek to find some truth in their sin that will serve you, then commit it to Christ and move on.
One of the most amazing things about Christ was His non-manipulatable style. People attempted many things to knock Him off His course. If people’s opinions governed His heart, He would have failed. The same applies to you.
Mercifully, the Father allows difficult challenges like gossip to come into my life. Sin is my opportunity not only to measure my progress in applying the gospel to my life but to motivate me to dive deeper into the heart of gospel-centered living. I trust your challenges work similarly in your heart and life.
Also published on Medium.