Lies We’ve Believed About Gossip

Last month, Bethany asked us to wrestle with this question in one of her Summer Book Club updates:

What are some ordinary or accepted sins you struggle with?

Wrestle I did, and one answer kept pinning me to the mat—gossip. It’s an “acceptable” sin I struggle with often. While talking about other people may seem normal and acceptable to me, I look to God’s Word and see that it’s not acceptable to Him.

  • Romans 1:29–30 lists gossip among some serious sins, including hating God and inventing evil. Gulp.
  • Colossians 3:8 urges us to put such talk away.
  • Matthew 12:36 warns us that a day is coming when we will have to give an account for every idle word we speak. Double gulp.

We don’t want to be gossip girls. We want to honor God with our words, right? The secret to changing our sin pattern is always the same. We identify the lies we’ve believed make our sin okay and replace them with God’s truth. Let’s do that together. Here are four lies we’ve believed about gossip.

Lie: Gossip Is Unavoidable

Part of the reason gossip feels like an acceptable sin is because we find ourselves doing it so often. It seems unavoidable, like we’re destined to fail to keep our mouths shut. But sin is never unavoidable (1 Cor. 10:13). With God’s help we can forge a new path. How exactly? I’m glad you asked.

How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word (Ps. 119:9).

It’s harder to fill the space with our own fruitless words when our mouths and hearts are filled with God’s Word.

We have a saying at our house for dealing with sibling squabbles that goes, “Sibling rivalry isn’t normal, it’s sinful.” The same logic applies to gossip. Gossip isn’t unavoidable; it’s sinful. We need God’s Word to reshape how we talk.

Gossip isn’t unavoidable; it’s sinful.

So I’m sending you on a Bible scavenger hunt. Spend some time this week dwelling on these verses. Ask God to use His Word to redirect your speech patterns.

Proverbs 6:16–19
Proverbs 16:28
Ephesians 4:29
2 Corinthians 12:20
James 1:26

Lie: It’s Not Gossip if It’s True

Certainly, we should avoid telling lies about others. That’s a no-brainer, right? But what if we have a piece of information that we know is true? We’ve done our fact-checking. Is sharing that still gossip? ‘Fraid that question leads to more questions than answers.

Question: Does this information build the other person up? Ephesians 4:29 instructs us to only say things that build others up (make them look good). If it’s true and it makes the other person look bad, don’t say it.

Question: Would I want this information spread about me? Jesus holds us to this standard, “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them” (Matt. 7:12). If you wouldn’t want someone sharing information (even true information) you didn’t give them permission to share, don’t do it to others. It’s a tough standard. Ask God to help you stick to it.

Lie: It’s Not Gossip if I’m Asking for Prayer

Do you know when I’m most tempted to gossip? During prayer time. Face palm!

Somehow the prospect of prayer lowers my inhibitions and I share things about other people I otherwise would not. Sometimes, I genuinely want to rally the troops to pray for a need. More often, I want to be seen as in the know. But I don’t need to share all of the details to ask someone to pray. God already knows them, right? I’ve found it best to let others ask for prayer themselves. Instead of recruiting prayer support, I want to learn to use my time and energy to actually pray for the individuals I know have needs.

Let’s do that together right now. Who do you know who needs God’s intervention in their life? Take a moment and pray for God to move. He heard you. He loves to respond to the prayers of His people. You didn’t have to share the need with a single other human to grab His attention.

Lie: It’s Not Gossip if It’s on a Screen

God’s standards apply to every corner of our lives, including our virtual lives.

What is it about our screens that makes us say things we wouldn’t in person? Maybe our constant access to each other’s lives makes us feel like we have the freedom to talk about each other constantly? Yet God’s standards apply to every corner of our lives, including our virtual lives. This includes how we talk about celebrities, how we talk about the president, how we talk about people doing dumb things in YouTube videos, and certainly how we talk about our “friends” and “followers.”

Gossip is gossip. In person and online.

Set a Guard upon My Mouth

If you’re a girl who struggles with gossip, like me, let me encourage you to pray this prayer.

Set a guard, O LORD, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips! (Ps. 141:3).

Ask the Lord to help you see your gossip for what it really is, sin, and to keep you from justifying it. May His truth reshape us from gossip girls to truth-speakers, guarded by His Word!

PS: For some practical tips on how to handle it when people are gossiping about you, be sure to check out tomorrow’s post.

About Author

Erin Davis

Erin is passionate about pointing young women toward God's Truth. She is the author of several books and a frequent speaker and blogger to women of all ages. Erin lives on a small farm in the midwest with her husband and kids. When she's not writing, you can find her herding goats, chickens, and children.

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  • Dear Erin Davis

    I’ve just read your Lies We’ve Believed About Gossip.

    I like your perspective on this topic.

    As you say regarding gossip ” I look to God’s Word and see that it’s not acceptable to Him.”

    Still, it’s difficult to avoid it.

    I agree with you about the nature of gossip – but your idea of gossip feeling acceptable because we find ourselves do it so often seems plausible and refreshing.
    The best weapon against gossip is God’s Word.

    You mentioned a couple of Bible verses in your blog post.

    I have a favourite among those Ephesians 4:29.

    It’s been near and dear to my heart since I was a little girl.

    If we manage to ask if what we’re about to say builds up or tears down? We’ll be better protected against spreading gossip.

    Often I use this sentence “what would Jesus do?” It’s proven to be helpful.

    Your suggestion about taking a moment and pray for God to move is the right action to take. We thereby avoid walking into the gossip-sphere.

    I’m looking forward to your next post.

    PS: Will share Thursday September 14.

    With respect,
    Edna Davidsen

  • Toluwanimi Ishola

    Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! I was thoroughly blessed by this post.
    My perspective about my speech has changed now as it would now conform to His word.
    God bless you Erin Davis. More Grace!!!

  • Anonymous

    What if you tell someone about what another person did without saying their name? Does that count as gossip? (I’m assuming it does…)

    • A good question to ask yourself is “If this unnamed person were standing right next to me, would I say this about him/her?” If the answer is no, then you are probably thinking about gossiping. Even if you don’t name their name, if you are talking about someone else and it isn’t building them up but rather is tearing them down, you shouldn’t do it. (Eph. 4:29).

  • Shanae B

    I fully agree with not telling Things about people to others! However what if withholding certain information actually puts yourself or someone else in emotional or physical danger? Can you not even tell a mentor or older trustworthy spiritually grounded person? I was apart of a group a few years ago and there was a guy who lead myself and a few other girls along and there was one girl he dated. The point is he wasn’t a Christian and he was gay but was apart of the group for a job related thing, but purposely kept those things secret. There were a couple of guys who knew but didn’t tell anyone. There were four girls altogether and if we knew we could have avoided a lot.

    • God gives instructions on how to handle situations like this in Matthew 18:15-17. You say this guy was an unbeliever, but the principles could still be applied to this situation. The one who is aware of the sin, should go to him one-on-one and confront him first. Then, if someone is in physical or emotional danger, it would be the right thing to go to a trusted godly adult who can intervene and help that person and the others impacted by him/her. Our heart motive has to be right – with the desire to help the other person rather than tearing them down.

      • Shanae B

        Thanks for responding! There was just a lot of reaccurring hurt for me and the other girls because not only was this guy able to do what he did, but people knew full well what was going on and let a lot of damage occur. Yes we should always strive for a right heart motive! No we shouldn’t tell things to just anyone and everyone. There are just unique situations where you do need to tell someone and not keep quiet because of “gossip”. I’ve just seen people use that negatively in the past. Thanks again!

  • Rachel Lee

    How do you deal with conversations with your friend when she is gossiping about someone else? I have a friend who likes to gossip whenever we talk and I do not like talking about other people especially because they are not in the room. Do you think I should tell her that she shouldn’t gossip or just keep my lips sealed as she talks about others to me?

    • Sarah @ Revive Our Hearts

      If you just keep your lips sealed, then you still hear the gossip. What you hear makes a difference in how you see the other person. Therefore, gossip is wrong to participate in–even when just listening. I had a friend who would say these words when a group of friends I was in started to gossip about someone else: “I don’t think we should talk about her/him/that situation because that would be gossip.” It was awkward for all of us hearing it because we knew she was right, but we soon started keeping a guard on our tongues to avoid such awkward/convicting words. Maybe you can say to your friend now just in conversation, “I’ve been convicted about gossip lately. I don’t want to do it anymore. So I have determined to not talk about other people or be in conversations with people that bring others down, and don’t lift them up. If they are not there, I don’t want to talk about them. Would you help me keep that commitment as a friend?” You are doing right by questioning/contemplating what to do! Proud of you!

      • Rachel Lee

        Now thinking about it, I have another question. I am a little scared to say that because I’m afraid I will start thinking I’m more holy than others and I’m scared to tell my friend that because I have a problem with being assertive with my words. Oh and also what is considered gossip? Is it just when you say mean remarks about somebody else not in the conversation or is it talking about anyone in general whether it’s mean or not mean? Because when I have conversations with people, I don’t like talking about others unless it’s a genuine compliment and positive. I don’t like talking about others not in the room because it makes me tempted to gossip.

        • Sarah @ Revive Our Hearts

          You may need to find another way to stop hearing the gossip if that makes you feel holier than thou. But make sure you do find a way to stop it as you will see from these words in a program of our parent ministry. The Bible is clear about gossip. Here you go; consider this:

          A gossip, according to Webster’s Dictionary, is a person who “chatters or repeats idle talk or rumors, especially about the private affairs of others.”

          As we get into the Proverbs, you will notice that there are several related words. The word gossip is often found in the New International Version. If you go back to the King James or the New King James Version, you will see the word talebearer, which is the same word that is translated gossip in the NIV. The dictionary says “a talebearer is a person who spreads scandal or tells secrets, a gossip.”

          Whisperer is another word you will see used in some translations. That is synonymous with a talebearer or a gossip—a whisperer. It is interesting that in the Greek, the word for whisper actually starts with the sound Psst—whispering. It is often true that gossiping is done—we wouldn’t be broadcasting it—behind the scenes, behind backs. “Psst, did you hear . . . ? Did you know . . . ? Can you believe . . . ?” Secret slander is really what we are talking about here—gossiping.

          Backbiting is another word used in some of your translations—to speak maliciously about a person who is not there. It is secret whispering or a secret slander. Proverbs has a lot to say about a gossip, talebearer, or whisperer. Let’s look at some of those verses together.

          Proverbs 11:13 says, “A talebearer [or a gossip] reveals secrets,” he betrays confidence, “but he who is of a faithful spirit conceals a matter.” A gossip is not trustworthy; they can’t keep a secret; they share confidential information. But, you say, “Well, the person who told me didn’t say it was confidential.” Do you think the person who told you would be comfortable with knowing you were repeating it? Has the person who told you given you freedom to share it?

          It may be that you don’t think the information is damaging, but ask yourself, “If I were that person, would I be comfortable with this information being passed along to someone else?” A talebearer reveals secrets.