Rev. Suzanne L. Taylor

Webster's Dictionary defines a gossip as a person who chatters or repeats idle talk and rumors, especially about the private affairs of others. There are several forms of gossip. There's the kind where  truths told in confidence are revealed. There's the kind that people just make up out of half truths or suppositions. And there's the kind that is used maliciously to cause harm to another. All forms of gossip are evil.

Many of us have been on the receiving end of vicious gossip.  We know first hand how much it hurts to know that someone we trusted not only broke a confidence, but actually, in many cases, added untrue information to tantalize their listener.  It seems that some people think having information about someone else doesn't make them as important as sharing that information does.  Let's look into our Bibles now and see what it has to teach us about gossip, or tale bearing.

Proverbs 11:13: "A talebearer (gossip) reveals secrets, but he who is of a faithful (loyal, reliable, constant) spirit conceals a matter."  A "faithful spirit" is someone who can be depended upon to carry truths about others without having to gush forth the information. (Let me say here that men and women are equally guilty of gossiping, so let's not point fingers.) Trustworthy means exactly what it implies. we are to be worthy of another's trust. Gossip is an evil that destroys lives and reputations. Families have suffered greatly from the backlash created by false rumors.

Gossip also destroys trust. Trust is something that is very difficult to gain. Once you do something to lose someone's trust, it may take you years to rebuild it, if ever. Good friendships are so hard to find. Please be wise and keep your thoughts, opinions, and knowledge of others' personal information to yourself.

Proverbs 16:28: "A perverse man sews strife, and a whisperer separates the best of friends." Divulging information that was entrusted to you is breaking a confidence. It's the easiest and fastest way to destroy a friendship. Know one thing: To get good friends, you must be a good friend. That involves being able to keep secrets, no matter how juicy they are. If you can find one friend you can trust in all ways, you are truly blessed. This kind of friend is a rare gift which should be treasured. That means you need to learn how to keep whatever that person shares with you a secret.

Proverbs 18:8: "The words of a talebearer are like tasty trifles, and they go down into the the innermost body." A gossiper loves the taste of his own words but, sadly, gossip leaves a bitter after taste. Gossip may be sweet on the tongue, but it turns bitter in the stomach. And gossip does not only hurt the person the story is about. It hurts the family of the person, and it hurts the talebearer too. But it also hurts the person being told the rumors.

A gossiper, if she has a conscience, feels guilty about revealing the secrets she has been given to hold in trust. She now has trouble looking her friend in the eye.  Stress develops between the two and the friendship begins to fade away. Strange as it seems, the person being talked about often wonders if she is the cause of the deteriorating friendship, when in fact, she is the victim of  loose-lip abuse.

Another sad thing about gossip is that those hearing the rumors can never again look at the subject of the gossip in the same way. "Wow! I never knew she could be like that!" they might think. And then the listener is tempted to become the gossiper. Of course, when she tells it, she will add her own "enhancements" to the tale. Can you see how one false statement can create an entirely wrong view of a person?

Gossip creates a vicious circle of I tell you, you tell her, she tells him. By the time the story reaches the victim, she recognizes just enough of it to realize the friend she trusted has betrayed her. It's a very painful thing to deal with.

Proverbs 26:20: "Where there is no wood the fire goes out; and where there is no talebearer, strife ceases." Can you see that the wood and the gossip are both fuels, though they each feed different fires? Wood is a good fuel. It keeps you warm and allows you to cook meals for yourself and your family. Gossip is a wicked fuel that feeds the fire of lust in the heart for useless chatter. It's a fire that destroys. It consumes any good thing in a friendship. (Note: Gossipers includes family members as well. However, family member's gossip is even more painful and destructive than that of a friend.)

For the dogs of hell to harrass the sheep is expected and understandable, but for sheep to
distress one another is unnatural, evil, wicked, and should be stopped lest we be accused of behaving as Galatians 5:15 speaks against.  It says, "But if ye bite and devour one another, take heed that ye be not consumed one of another."   Don't allow strife, envy, jealousy or any other harmful spirit to cause you to become a cannibal that bites and devours each other.

In several places the Bible calls gossip backbiting, whispering, and slander. It is almost always included in a list of other carnal sins. Look at what Paul says about young widows in I Timothy 5:11-15, "But the younger widows refuse: for when they have begun to wax wanton against Christ, they will marry; Having damnation, because they have cast off their first faith.  And withal they learn to be idle, wandering about from house to house; and not only idle, but tattlers also and busybodies, speaking things which they ought not. I will therefore that the younger women marry, bear children, guide the house, give none occasion to the adversary to speak reproachfully.  For some are already turned aside after Satan." The widows had nothing better to do, so they gossiped. For that reason, it is suggested that young widows remarry, take care of a home, and raise children so they can occupy their time wisely.

Have you ever noticed how the teller of gossip will come close, look around, and swear you to secrecy before disclosing their tidbit? That's because they know it's wrong to reveal what they are about to tell you, and that should be a red flag to you. If someone begins to tell you something personal about someone else, stop them and say that you will talk directly with the person. Watch the dance steps they do then as they attempt to keep themselves out of trouble!

Another thing to be careful of is how much information is shared during requests for prayer. So often people use the innocent basis of prayer as a guise to tell all. Refuse to hear it. Simply say, "I really don't want to hear this." If you do listen, the next time you see the subject of the gossip, she will appear different to you. And you will be guilty for having this knowledge about her.

Father, I pray that You will open the spiritual eyes, ears and hearts of Your people to see how wicked and damaging, and hurtful gossip is. Cleanse them from the need to satisfy the lust  for idle chatter. Let their words become honoring and glorifying to You so that when they have to make account before You of the words they spoke, they will not feel ashamed.  In Jesus' name I pray, Amen and amen.