Gossip is a sin that’s all too easy to commit. The desire to share a secret, vent about a grievance, or get another person to hear our side, can often get the best of us. Yet, we see a throughout the Bible that gossip is no small offense. Not only does the Lord condemn the action, He lists it amongst things that are an abomination!
“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 6:16-19)
If we are honest, we’ve all experienced gossip in some way or another. Whether we were talked about, actively listened to another person being slandered, or shared things we weren’t supposed to, gossip has a way of sneaking itself into relationships. In my personal life, I have seen how one misguided conversation can ruin friendships, family bonds, and even churches.
Even more so, in a day and age that centers around technology, there’s been numerous instances of how slander and internet gossip has become so intense that people have committed suicide from the pain caused. Although it’s not easy, we must be aware of how our tongue can wreak havoc on the world around us.
“The tongue can bring death or life; those who love to talk will reap the consequences.” (Proverbs 18:21)
With this in mind, let’s consider 5 truly harmful effects of gossip.
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Gossip leads to mistrust for everyone involved. If you are person known for sharing everything you hear, it is likely many will be nervous to share with you. As I was once taught, “If they will talk about them to you, they will talk about you to them.” So, while, sharing the latest news may feel good in the moment, the person listening will remember how you lacked discretion. Thus, not only will your listener lose trust for you, when the person you’ve talked about learns of your inability to withhold information, you will lose their confidence as well.
“Whoever goes about slandering reveals secrets; therefore do not associate with a simple babbler.” (Proverbs 20:19)
2. The Spreading of Lies
One reality about gossip is that lies often weave themselves into it. This is sometimes intentional, as the sharer wants to make the story more interesting or defame the person to a greater extent. Other times lies can be spread accidentally, much like the childhood game of telephone. As the news goes from one person to another, things are lost in translation or misinterpreted. Regardless of whether the lies are spread on purpose, by choosing to speak about a person who isn’t present, you put yourself in a bad position. There’s simply no way for the person in question to share their truth or clear up any confusion, when they aren’t present.
“You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.” (Exodus 20:16)
3. Tarnished Reputation
One way to ruin a person’s reputation quickly is through gossip. We see this all the time when it comes to teenage girls. It only takes one person to start a rumor of an indiscretion to set off a chain reaction. Before long, she is known for something she may or may not have participated in. It can take years to repair a tarnished reputation, and in most cases the damage is already done.
According to Very Well Family, the person who’s suffered from another person’s gossip is more likely to suffer from lowered self-esteem, increased insecurity, depression, and suicidal thoughts. In other words, gossip places unnecessary shame on a person that may be innocent. Remember, there are always three sides to every story, “yours, theirs, and the truth.” Be sure to think carefully before you participate in a conversation about someone else without them present. There is a high chance it will change your image of them without giving them an opportunity to defend themselves.
“Choose a good reputation over great riches; being held in high esteem is better than silver or gold.” (Proverbs 22:1)
4. Breaks Confidentiality
A key element of friendship is confidentiality. When one friend shares with another, they do so in expectation that the friend is a “safe place.” Close friends may disclose details about their intimate lives, children, secret insecurities, past mistakes and expect that no one will ever find out. Yet, gossip breaks this code of silence.
In some ways, sharing one’s secrets is like saying, “My desire to speak about you is more important than my desire to honor you.” Rushing to share someone’s intimate details is not only selfish but a way to seek attention for yourself or make the other person look bad. At the end of the day, we must remember, if other people are unaware of your friend’s business, there is probably a reason why.
Although these situations are few and far between, there are some instance that confidentiality must be broken. For instance, if you learn that your friend’s child is being sexually abused in the home or your friend is actively trying to commit suicide. In those cases, it’s best to seek counsel without disclosing who the person is and move forward with contacting the authorities best suited to handle the situation. When it comes to child safety, if you are a teacher, coach, mental health professional, hospital worker, and or clergy member (depending on the state), you are a mandated reporter and are required to share the information. It may prove necessary in the moment to directly tell your friend, “Thanks for sharing that but I have to share this with someone else to get help.”
5. Ruins Relationships
One way to sever a relationship is to share or participate in gossip. Once the trust is lost and the confidentiality is broken, it can be difficult to move forward. According to Psychology today, gossip leads to “cliques, backstabbing, bullying, secret alliances, and making others feel attacked.” Unfortunately, no relationship is exempt from the harmful effects. Whether the gossip occurs through work friends, amongst the church, siblings, or best friends, being talked about when you aren’t present causes much pain.
“A dishonest man spreads strife, and a whisperer separates close friends.” (Proverbs 16:28)
Blogger, Jessica Gavin, suggests the following steps if you find yourself in the middle of a damaged relationship caused by gossip.
- Come clean with yourself about the poor choice to participate.
- Accept that gossip is damaging.
- Repent for your participation.
- Cling to Jesus for help.
Ultimately, gossip is a character issue. It takes much maturity to walk away from juicy gossip. This can become even harder if you aren’t a fan of the person being talked about. Yet, God requires us to do so. He knows that gossip moves fast and can be a virus to your community. Our focus should be on our own situations and building up others. We must not allow our tongues to be guilty of harming another or sit quietly as another does so. With the Lord’s help, we can avoid this temptation.
“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” (Ephesians 4:29)
Photo Credit: © Getty Images/Tatiana
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