But the tongue can no man tame; it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison.
— James 3:8
Have you ever felt stabbed in the back by someone who repeated secret information you had shared with him? How did you feel when you realized that person had betrayed his commitment to keep that information confidential?
Has there ever been a time when you were guilty of repeating something that someone shared with you, trusting that you would keep it in confidence? Or have you ever been guilty of listening to someone who was gossiping about someone else, thereby showing yourself to be an unfaithful friend to the person who was being discussed?
In Second Corinthians 12:20, Paul forbids gossip, using the Greek word psithurismos, which expresses the idea of a gossiper. In the King James Version, it is translated as the word “whisperings,” because those who repeat or listen to gossip know this kind of talk is wrong and could get them in trouble; therefore, they whisper their tidbits of information in secret rather than in public. However, a better translation for psithurismos would be to gossip.
Perhaps there is nothing more distressful than the behavior of a talebearer — one who meddles in other people’s affairs and repeats information that is none of his business to tell. This kind of person is continually putting his nose where it doesn’t belong and often makes a situation worse because people begin to talk, talk, and talk. Usually a talebearer doesn’t have all the facts; thus, he needlessly stirs up a lot of trouble as people begin to form opinions and take sides regarding situations they know very little about.
Proverbs 11:13 says, “A talebearer revealeth secrets: but he that is of a faithful spirit concealeth the matter.” So here are some questions to consider:
- When people think of you, do they think of you as a talebearer who repeats everything you hear, or do they find you to be confidential, private, and trustworthy?
- Do you have the reputation of being able to conceal a matter, or do people think you are two-faced and have loose lips?
- Are your friends certain that if someone starts to say something negative about them, you will walk away, refusing to listen to that rumor? Or do they worry that you might listen to gossip that is being spread about them?
Every listener has the ability to walk away from a conversation. No one has the right to force dirt into another person’s ears.
You have a choice! You can either pull up a chair, draw closer to the gossiper, open your ears, and let him start whispering what he has heard about what he thinks he knows — or you can choose to walk away and refuse to listen to him.
Let me ask you this: Haven’t there been many times in the past when you should have said, “Excuse me, but should we be talking like this?” Or maybe you should have said, “Excuse me, but I don’t believe it is right for us to talk like this, and I cannot be a part of this conversation.” When you chose to listen to the gossip instead of walking away, how did you feel afterwards — clean or dirty, faithful or unfaithful and tarnished? Were you glad you listened to those words that were whispered to you behind closed doors?
When you turn and walk away from a gossiper, you literally paralyze his ability to discuss things that are not his business to discuss. You see, in order for the words of a gossip to be successful, there must be two parties involved — the gossiper and the listener. Without a listener, the gossiper’s voice is silenced. If there is no one to listen, there is nothing to tell! This is exactly why Proverbs 26:20 says, “Where no wood is, there the fire goeth out: so where there is no talebearer, the strife ceaseth.”
When people start to “run at the mouth” and repeat information that isn’t theirs to tell, be brave enough to simply tell them: “Excuse me, but this conversation makes me uncomfortable; I don’t think I want to be a part of it.” By the same token, if you’re tempted to talk with others about the private business of someone else, refuse to do it, even if the information is factual!
People mistakenly assume that if the information they are “telling” is accurate, then it isn’t gossip. But why would gossip be more acceptable to God just because a person is repeating accurate information about someone else’s affairs? It’s still none of that person’s business. Besides, even when people think they are repeating accurate information, most of the time it isn’t accurate. But accurate or not, no one has the right to go around delving into other people’s business.
Proverbs 18:8 says, “The words of a talebearer are as wounds, and they go down into the innermost parts of the belly.” Why did Solomon refer to the long-term effects of gossip as “wounds”? Consider this:
- Gossip permanently blemishes our view of the person being discussed.
- Once that picture gets into our minds, it’s very hard to erase it. It is simply a fact that we almost never forget a bad report we have heard about someone else.
- Every time we see the person about whom we heard the gossip, that rumor will be resurrected in our minds. It becomes a wound, a mark, a stain in our memory.
So make the decision today to refrain from gossiping. Be a man or woman of God, and refuse to even listen to it! The next time someone starts to “run at the mouth” and talk about things that are not his to decide or to discuss, confront that person about what he is doing. If he chooses to continue gossiping, walk away from him and maintain your integrity before God and before those who are being discussed.
So ask yourself this question: Am I a revealer, or am I a concealer? Don’t allow yourself to fall into the trap of discussing and debating things that don’t concern you. Certainly you have enough to deal with in your own life without jumping into the middle of situations where you have never been formally invited! If you’ll let the Holy Spirit help you, He will show you how to walk away from gossipers and thus maintain integrity with everyone. You will be able to go through life knowing that you haven’t listened to or been a participant in conversations that bring hurt and wounds to other people.
My Prayer for Today
Lord, I thank You for speaking to my heart today about gossip. Give me the power to tell others that I do not want to participate in talking about things that are not my business to decide or to discuss. Please forgive me for the times I’ve allowed myself to be caught up in conversations that didn’t glorify You and that wouldn’t be considered faithful by those who were being discussed. I repent for this, and today I am making the decision to walk away from such conversations from this moment forward!
I pray this in Jesus’ name!
My Confession for Today
I confess that I refrain from gossiping and refuse to listen to it! I am a faithful friend, and I conceal a matter when it has been made known to me. I don’t allow myself to fall into the trap of discussing and debating things that don’t concern me. Because the Holy Spirit helps me, I know how to walk away from any conversation that doesn’t glorify God. I do not listen to or participate in conversations that cause hurts and wounds in other people’s lives.
I declare this by faith in Jesus’ name!
Questions to Answer
1. Have you ever been guilty of tarnishing another person’s opinion of someone by gossiping — telling the person information that was not yours to tell?
2. Has anyone ever told other people information about you as if he or she had the facts — but the information was incorrect? When you heard what that person said about you, how did it affect you? Were you shocked to hear what he or she believed and repeated to others?
3. What do you think makes people want to gossip? What pleasure does it give the flesh to tell nitty-gritty details about other people’s personal business or affairs?