Shutting down gossip

Gossip, a little talk turned sour. To some degree, we’ve all done it. Some of us still do it, while others are trying to stop doing it.

Some people laugh about it, but this is serious – so serious that God himself will eternally condemn people who gossip (Rom. 1:28-32).

Gossip is ugly and wicked. It sells a lie as truth and exchanges the truth of God for a lie. The wisdom-filled Solomon has a lot to say about it in the Book of Proverbs. It’s foolish (Pro. 10:18). It destroys neighbours (Pro. 11:9). It betrays confidence (Pro. 11:13). It separates close friends (Pro. 16:28). It penetrates the heart and ruins it (Pro. 18:8). It’s compared to a wood that kindles and fuels the fire (Pro. 26:20). And we’re commanded to separate from those who love it (Pro. 20:19).

Both the New and Old Testaments have a lot to say about gossip. Nevertheless, what is it? If we’re to intentionally avoid gossip, then we need to biblically understand what it is.

 

Defining gossip

The Book of Proverbs notes two major things about gossip: the kind of information shared, and the reason for sharing such information.

Gossip is slandering and revealing confidential information shared in secret and is often intended to damage someone’s reputation. Gossipers elevate themselves by revealing the struggles and failings of others (whether true or false) without their approval. Gossip is pride in action, and in the New Testament, Paul the apostle associates it with busybodies and idleness (1 Tim. 5:13).

Gossip is pride in action tweet

Killing gossip

We can learn to kill gossip. Here are a few things that can help us be counter-gossip.

First. It should be noted with all seriousness that gossip is sin. Not only does it offend someone, at the core, it attacks the sovereignty of God by belittling his image bearer. God is always in the details of others, working even in their struggles and failings. Who are you to compete with him?

Second. We’re commanded to love God, love each other, love our neighbours, and love our enemies (see article: Fourfold of love). From all these categories, you can see that in essence we’re commanded to love everyone. When we gossip we’re being unkind, arrogant and prideful. On the other hand, love is kind, not arrogant, and does not rejoice in wrongdoing (1 Cor. 13:4-7). Therefore, when we kill gossip we’re demonstrating love to others.

Third. Stop excusing gossip. Often we’re tempted to meddle in other people’s issues for the sake of not helping but shaming. Yes, as Christians we’re called to be each other’s keepers, and that includes confrontation and rebuke. However, remembering our definition, gossip does not do that. Gossip avoids the person struggling and goes to the other for the sake of murmuring and exposing shameful things. Therefore, we shouldn’t excuse our gossiping in the name of ‘trying to help.’

Fourth. Stop being a busybody and idle, which often leads to a worrisome interest in the affairs of others. Start using your time productively for the sake of others’ joy in Christ. All of life should revolve around glorifying God, and gossip doesn’t do that. Learn to speak well of others, and commend their work.

Fifth. Learn to keep quiet. It may sound difficult but it’s possible. Keep your mouth and tongue from idle talk (Pro. 21:23). Apostle James warns us: “If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless. Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world” (James 1:26-27). Learn to control your tongue, and do good for others.

It’s Trillia Newbell who recently said, “Stop and pray if we are tempted to share news or information that doesn’t need to be shared.” That’s good advice for those of us who are often tempted to gossip.

Lesetja Lekoloane

Lesetja Lekoloane is a BSc graduate from the University of Pretoria. He’s the founder and board chair of Eternal Passion, a Christ-centred Christian organisation which aims to spread a passion for Jesus Christ in Africa. He’s also the author of "Racism – A biblical viewpoint" (2016).