We don’t often REALLY think about that gossip is a sin that grieves the heart of God. He finds it just as repulsive and evil as lying, cheating, stealing, looking lustfully at someone, having an idol in our hearts, disrespecting our husbands, rebelling against God-given authority, refusing to forgive others, harboring bitterness in our hearts – these are ALL sins. And they all grieve God’s heart deeply.
In fact, if we are cherishing any of these things in our hearts – God’s Spirit will not fill us and empower us to be the people He desires us to be. So it is definitely time to think about the sin of gossip and how God intends for us to have victory over this ever-present temptation.
Melody Green wrote a fantastic post on gossip at Last Days Ministries. You can find it here http://www.lastdaysministries.org/Articles/1000008545/Last_Days_Ministries/LDM/Discipleship_Teachings/Melody_Green/Gossip.aspx
She has a very interesting definition of gossip:
Sharing anything about some one, when the act of sharing it is not part of the solution to that person’s problem.
This can seem to get kind of sticky sometimes. For me – if a wife comes to me and wants to change herself and see her own sin and bless her marriage – then I believe it is not sin for me to hear her talk about her marriage and what her husband is doing. And then I will gently speak the truth in love to her about what SHE needs to repent of and change. But if she DOES NOT want to change herself and just wants to run her husband down – then that is gossip and that is sin for her and sin for me to listen to.
So the content of a person’s words may be the same but in one situation – it is sin, and the other situation – it is not. Gossip can be anything that is true or false that we share to hurt someone else’s reputation or feelings. It is our destructive, unloving, hateful motives that are the key to why this is a sin. God is very concerned with our motives.
We have to do the right thing for the right reason. Anything else is sin.
Doing the right thing for the wrong reason is sin. Doing the wrong thing for the right reason is also sin.
WHAT ABOUT ME?
I am not standing on a platform of perfection here. Just like with any other sin, the farther away I am from God – the more tempting the sin.
James 1:26-27 says, “If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless. Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”
James 3:2 says, “If anyone is never at fault in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to keep his whole body in check.”
I am certainly not claiming perfection. Anything good in my life – is the work of God in my heart. Anything sinful - I take full credit for that.
God puts gossip in the same categories with other sin in II Corinthians 12:20. For I am afraid that when I come I may not find you as I want you to be, and you may not find me as you want me to be. I fear that there may be quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, factions, slander, gossip, arrogance and disorder.
How am I doing with this temptation? Well – MUCH better than years ago before I learned about respect and submission. But there are still places where gossip is tempting to me. Work and family gatherings being the main temptations. I stopped sharing anything negative about my husband years ago – I realized that was very disrespectful. But I have to be very careful – if I begin to harbor resentment against someone – then I am REALLY tempted to talk about them. And that is sin. So when I see that I have the urge to tell other people about someone – it’s time for me to check my heart and repent of my resentment and unforgiveness.
My bigger issue now is that although I know I should not be listening to gossip – I often am afraid to confront it and stop it – I have often resorted to trying to ignore it. So I have failed many times especially in that regard. It is sinful for me to listen, and I need to access God’s Spirit of power and courage to stop myself from hearing this stuff. It contaminates our brains and souls even if we aren’t the ones gossiping – just hearing it is also dangerous and destructive to our relationships with people and with God.
WHAT CAN WE DO?
1. Confess our sin to God – and possibly to those we have hurt when it is appropriate.
2. Repent of our sin – turn away from it and commit to doing things God’s way.
3. Ask for God’s Spirit to empower us – because there is NO WAY we can do this in our own strength.
4. Have a plan for what to do when we are feeling tempted to gossip ourselves
5. Have a plan for what to do when other people around us begin to gossip.
WHEN WE ARE TEMPTED TO GOSSIP:
I think we have to be filled with God’s Spirit on a daily basis and take every thought captive to Christ. We may have to ask ourselves before we say something
- is what I am about to say potentially going to hurt someone?
- what are my motives for wanting to share this incident?
- does this story honor Christ?
- does this story honor the person I want to talk about?
- am I sharing information with someone who is not going to be able to do anything constructive with the information?
- I think as wives we must be VERY careful not to share negative things about our husbands – unless we are talking to a godly mentor or counselor to look at our own sin and see what we need to change. Even then, we need to be careful to be as respectful as possible.
- as moms, it’s so easy for us to get used to telling our friends and family everything about our children when they are young. But as they get older, sharing their mistakes, failures or humiliating stories will REALLY hurt them.
- women in extended families and with girl friends love to catch up with each other and find out how everyone is doing – but we have to be VERY careful not to let this slide into something ugly and sinful that will hurt our families.
- in church groups – prayer requests can EASILY become gossip sessions. No need to share details – we can pray for unspoken requests – God knows the details
- when we are hurt – sharing what someone did to hurt us will ALMOST ALWAYS lead to sin – unless we are talking to a mentor or godly person to help us work through forgiveness and help us to see our own sin and accountability. EXTREME caution here!
- when I was first learning about respect -I took several BIG steps back from everyone around me emotionally and put more distance between me and other people. I realized I had very unhealthy boundaries and was involved in other people’s business way too much, and allowing others to be way too involved in mine.
It is better to say nothing and have silence at work or in the family gathering than to use that time to injure other people or entertain people with stories of others’ failures.
WHEN WE ARE FACED WITH OTHERS GOSSIPING AROUND US
- I let all of my extended family and coworkers know that I am working on not gossiping and not listening to gossip.
- In the past, I would try to just turn away and not act like I was listening, and try to stay busy if gossip was going on – but now, I don’t think that was a strong enough action.
- I do think that it’s possible that there may be some people who will NOT stop gossiping even if I ask them to, and they may be people that I might have to avoid so that they do not drag me into sin – if they are not able to stop themselves.
- I like Ronfurg’s ideas: It is unfortunate that much disrespectful behavior is tolerated within the church by well-meaning Christians who are blinded to the consequences of participating in malicious gossip concerning marital relationships. Disrespectful talk must be cut off immediately when it starts. We ARE NOT doing the person a favor by listening to or joining in a tirade against a marriage partner. Participating in any way is sinful. As Christians we need to have a well thought out plan for how to deal with such situations in a tactful way that may lead to a teachable moment for the offender. It is best accomplished the very moment that it becomes clear that the person is starting down the path to a complaint, or worse, about their spouse. We need to stop it IMMEDIATELY. Even mid-sentence. Something like: “(The person’s name), I can see that you’re very upset/distressed/angry/etc., I’m sorry that you’re going through a difficult situation but I can not listen to what I believe you have to say. I recommend you speak with our pastor/church counselor/ministry leader/etc., about your situation.” Or, something to that effect. Certainly a church should be a culture where such disrespect and gossip should not be tolerated — but I believe such a church is rare these days.
- say something like, “Please don’t share that with me.” “Please don’t gossip to me.” “I don’t want to hear gossip.” “It’s wrong for me to listen to this.” “I can’t listen to this, I’m sorry, but it’s wrong for me to listen to gossip.”
Thank You that You have the power to give us victory over all sin – including gossip and sins of our tongues. Convict us where we have failed You. Give us the strength to truly repent. Empower us with Your Spirit because we have no self-control apart from You! Let us use our words to give life, not to destroy and kill. Let us honor You greatly – with every thought, word and deed! Let us be holy as You are holy. Set us apart for Your use. We are fully Yours. Let Your will be done in our lives. Cleanse us and make us as white as snow.
In the Name and power of Christ,