7 Ways to Stop Gossip

In my job, I hear far more junk than I care to hear. The larger our church gets, the more mess we encounter among the people to whom we minister. We have designed our church to reach hurting people, so we are simply reaching our target audience, but some days it is more difficult than others to hear such sad stories.

One part of the drama of messiness that always frustrates me is how gossip begins about other people’s problems. As if dealing with the consequences of sin is not enough, many times some of the hardest repercussion is the gossip that occurs about the people involved and the situation that occurred. I have been the victim of unfair gossip and I know the pain it can cause. I have never found gossip to be helpful to the people involved or to the Kingdom of God. I have literally become a hater of gossip because I have seen it destroy so many people! Gossip hurts innocent people who are caught in the middle, it exaggerates the situation, and it keeps the one who did wrong loaded with guilt and frustration, and from experiencing the fullness of God’s grace. (Consider these passages: Proverbs 11:13, Proverbs 16:28, Proverbs 20:19, Proverbs 26:20, Romans 1:29, 2 Corinthians 12:20, 1 Timothy 5:13 … the Bible talks a great deal about this…)

With that in mind, I’m listing 7 suggestions for how to stop, or at least slow, the spread of gossip. Will you consider each and take them personal? If the shoe fits will you wear it. Together, perhaps we can help stop the deadly spread of this harmful virus!

Here are 7 ways to stop gossip:

  • Don’t repeat something you don’t know is true firsthand…secondhand knowledge is not enough to justify repeating. You will get something wrong and it will hurt others.
  • Don’t repeat unless its helpful to do so and you have a vested interest in the situation, the people involved, and permission to share…doing so in the name of a prayer request is not a good excuse…
  • Don’t “confess” other people’s sins. Even if the wrong included you and you feel the need to confess, share your story, but not someone else’s.
  • If you must tell, and have passed the test on the first three suggestions, tell only what happened and not your commentary or “I think this is probably what happened” or why you think it happened…
  • Choose to pray for others every time you are tempted to tell their story…instead of telling their story…
  • When someone tells you something you don’t need to know, don’t allow curiosity to be your guide…follow your heart. Stop the person and tell them you don’t want to know! Remember, if they will spread gossip about others they will spread it about you!
  • Keep the circle of confession limited to the people involved or to no more than needed for accountability purposes. The wider the circle and the more the story is repeated the more likely things will turn into gossip.

If my tone seems intent it’s because I am. I have little patience for gossips. My desire is to see people who live in holy and healthy community together. Gossip is a betrayer of this becoming reality.

Have you seen people injured by the spread of gossip? Have you been a victim?

Please chime into the discussion to help make my case here!! What else would you add?

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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40 thoughts on “7 Ways to Stop Gossip

  1. All I wanted him to do was call my parents and talk with them about what's going on. But nope he wouldn't do it. In August 2012 they told me I couldn't be a jr high leader anymore and said I was immature. I had enough of what was going on so I left. I went to a different church in September and left it in January. I felt I was better from everything that happened so I went back. Now I will tell you what's happening today. I have been trying to get on the worship team for a year( I sang once and that was it) that was in September 2013 and my worship pastor said he will set a date for me to join the team. November came around and he never mentioned me singing at all so I met with him and asked why. He said he doesn't see much passion for worship in me. So that was that. I worked on getting that passion back to sing. But for some other reason, other than that I can't get on the worship team. He wanted to know what could be holding me back. So I told him how I was left out in the youth group and he said " if you can't get me video proof of that then you made it up"
    Yup, he said that. He would always tell me that I can be honest with him so I was and he doesn't believe me. I feel the jr high pastor and the sr high as well as Emma and some other people have spread some major gossip about me so I can't get on the worship team. In my church, you have to be fake and pretend your life is perfect. This week I found out my worship pastor disabled my account for the worship team. (By the way i will call my worship pastor "ted" and his wife is "Judy") it was never in use, but I feel it would be more professional of him to just tell me. I told him I am upset about it and he said "it's not a big deal" he doesn't think he did anything wrong. Now today one of my "friends" I'll call this one Anne. She has a very domineering personality, she thinks she makes good decisions but she doesn't. She kinda bullies you into being her friend. She is close with my worship pastors wife. She is one way with people who work at the church and another way with me. She tells me everyone's business. I tell her to please stop but she won't. The reason why I have been her friend is because I feel sorry for her sometimes with the choices she makes. She told my mom that Judy came to her and asked her what "my story" is and of course, Anne told her some of my business. Anne told my mom not to tell me. But my mom did…she's my mom…of course she is. I have no ideal if Anne said that about Judy to cause war between the three of us( Judy, Ted, and I. I have no clue why God has allowed all of this to happen to me. It seems like everytime I try and get ahead someone stops it. Any advice?

    Thanks

  2. Every time I go visit my friends I ask God to help me not to gossip and when they start I join and afterwards I feel so very sad and upset and I beg God to forgive me and to help me because without His help I cannot overcome the problem. I am a re-born child of God and I want to please Jesus in all that I am. Please pray for me.

    God Bless
    Rina

  3. I have seen gossip do more harm than good and feel gossip is an epidemic which is worse than diseases. Some people have more problems with this issue more than others, they need to cry before God for Him to help them change this terrible habit. The truth is that if they don’t change, gossip will continue to destroy the relationships they form no matter the community they find themselvwe including the church community. This problem will not go away unless they first accept they’ve got the problem and two deal with it by the help of the Holy Spirit.

  4. Gossip interferes with getting to know the real person. Why do people allow the things that they've heard color the way that they treat the person that is being gossiped about? Treat everyone with the respect & dignity they deserve, regardless of what you've heard about them.

  5. I am currently the subject of gossip. I have struggled with feeling hurt and having bitterness creep in. I have tried to talk openly and clear the air of misinformation and misunderstanding. It seems to be to no avail. The most helpful thing to me in terms of remaining free of bitterness, has been to pray for my enemies with a sincere heart. This is the only way I am able to love them. It has also been helpful to me to remember that unless I can forgive those who have sinned against me then neither will I be forgiven by my heavenly Father who is so faithful to forgive me.

  6. Dear Pastor, I'd like to expound on what you've mentioned if I may. I don't know if you meant to say this but please forgive me if you did and did not put it in your article somewhere. You said that you minister to the hurting and I mean no disrespect, just food for thought. Here's my question/statement together. With my experience, after probing deeper with the person that was doing the gossiping found how much they themselves are hurting. Usually but not always are venting or reflecting the pain on to someone else to make themselves feel better by doing so. It is that thorn in the side that is causing them to do so and it's looking for relief. Being Buffeted by Satan, like in 2 Cor 12:7, is not a good feeling at all. Please know that the mission field is not so obvious. Aren't they the lost, the gossip? In close thank you for much good info concerning your article! I pray all blessing to you, your ministry and congregation at large! May you all find a rich and deep relationship with him that calls us friend, Jesus! I Love him so and pray that we all continue in that Love!

    • Good thoughts. I certainly didn't mean to imply we don't love the gossiper. We love all. Unfortunately, in my experience, some of the strongest gossip comes out of the church. Certainly the majority of my readers are Christian (97% according to my recent survey). It's a sin we seldom address but I believe can be one of the most damaging to individuals and the church. That was the purpose of this post. Helping is address the sin problem. Thanks for your comment.

  7. In my country we use the word. "AKALA" and I pray I will never hear the word again. It took awhile to get it off my system and even add those gossipers on FB! AND EVEN HAVE THE NERVE TO ADD ME. Only by the grace of God … he said "Love your enemies" and "Vengeance is mine". He is my avenger, strong tower, shield and strength in time of need. I know he already dealt with those hurtful people and someday they will answer to the Lord and not to me. God have mercy on them.

  8. Our college and careers group has had major growth in this area after studyingand intently practicing mt 18:15-17. We have gotten to the point where we will actually hold up our hands in a “T” for time-out and suggest the person go talk directly to the person they are talking about. We are still human and stumble, but this practice has changed the way we treat each other immensely!

  9. Gossip is often shared under the guise of "just so you can pray". It is dressed up, but it still stinks. Reputations are stolen and characters assassinated, divisions caused and trust lost. I reckon that gossip must be one of Satan's most effciently destructive tools.

  10. I recently had an affair with a fellow church member… A family member called the minister and ask her to speak to my friend,, the minister,in turn confided in 3 of her close parishners..and you know where that went… Lots of opinions and lots of wagging tongues.. We know we have sinned and have taken steps for forgivness but at this point , other than changing churches, how do we face members of THAT church again as well as THAT minister… I feel that the minister should have counseled us and kept the entire thing private.. I have sinned but so have the ones that I trusted in my church… How do I handle it and what do I do now,,,? My Lord is at my side and I am trying to redeem myself….

  11. I'm a young preacher and our church is being destroyed by gossip. I'm not wise enough to know how to deal with it, it has even infected the leadership. I would like to quit, but I'm a slave to the King Messiah, so I'm not my own, and I have to do what He says. Please say a prayer for us. Not sure what to do. But God gives wisdom.

  12. wow nice list. This really is a serious problem inside every church. We should really learn to tame our tongue and learn to love and respect each other.

    Thanks for sharing. I really love it when you make a "todo list". making it easier to discuss and follow.

  13. What's particularly sad is that the adage, "keep your friends close and your enemies closer", should not have to apply to a pastor. It's not a stretch to think that the pastor assumes the congregants are his friends, so by the time gossip reaches the stage where it brings him down, it must feel like standing next to Mount St Helens without a seismometer.

    Even in a Skid Row church, we have to deal with gossip. Maybe I shouldn't be surprised: it isn't a big stretch for a "street person" who's been called out on their sin — probably in an indelicate way, too — to start talking down the pastor and even taking the gossip to other missions and churches in the area. That may not drive a wedge between the churches (because I doubt other pastors would receive that gossip) but it diminishes the work the pastor in question is doing.

  14. Question. I love your posts, but sometimes the topic of gossip gets tricky. Recently had several (about 8) accusations about a man in our church. No first hand accounts, but someone had told someone who told me. Now that's a lot of accusations. Should I not have repeated any of them? In fact I had one person call me a gossip. However, it was his best friend. It all most blew up big, because it led us to google him, and he had a criminal record with minors and did jail time. No one was aware but his best friend. Long story, but was I wrong to go to his best friend? I did not go to others, although some also went to google and the local authorities and found out even more. I had no proof, but kids could have been hurt.

    • Obviously Mike you are referring to a specific situation. Principles never take precedence over practicality. Its like the sign posted "No swimming" but you have to swim to save someone. If a teenager was doing something that could harm himself you would need to tell the parents If children were in jeopardy in your church you had to do something.

      I do believe that whenever possible the person should be approached first and certainly the circle kept as small as possible. You had to protect the church but you could have found out the accusations were false, which in that case you would have been glad you did.

      Even still, I think intent is the key in this discussion. Gossip has an intent to spread news for the purpose of sharing the scoop on someone. It's motive isn't pure. I don't hear that as your intent.

      Thanks for adding good discussion.

      • Thanks for this! For a long time in my family we were very hush hush about the physical abuse that went on between my grandmother and grandfather (and between my great aunts and their husbands). The issue didn't get dealt with until we as a family could talk about it. Because of my upbringing my default is to keep quite about others even if the person in question is abusing me. Sadly in addition to my upbringing this idea of gossiping being bad helped fueled my behavior.

        But this advice is what I've been looking for. Thanks again!

    • You know… I'm not a lawyer and I don't play one on TV :)

      But perhaps, given whatever the particular circumstance is, it would have been a better choice, assuming that you had a strong "fear" that kids could be hurt, to contact legal counsel. Or perhaps the best thing to do would have been to confront him with another elder or whomever leads in your church in a loving and non-accusatory manner saying that you've heard this and that from a number of unrelated people and you feel it's your responsibility to quietly and quickly dig to the bottom to either refute or confirm the statements and to get his take on it and then make a decision.

  15. I have seen gossip purposely used as a tool by an out-of-control lay leadership in the church to "take down" the pastor. It worked, because while everyone talked about not tolerating gossip, in fact it was an accepted part of the church's social interaction. The heart behind gossip, the utter lack of love behind it, is evil. Until we begin to take Jesus' call to heart holiness and radical love for God and others, gossip will always be a problem. We need to keep ourselves and God's people in prayer…

  16. My wife always says that if you have nothing encouraging to say to or about someone, then say nothing.

    If you feel the need to "tell a story" in the name of a prayer request, you don't have to give details and you don't have to name names.

  17. The first church I attended (I wasn't "raised in church") had a major gossip problem. Expressing your annoyance of it would usually take you out of the loop, at the risk of becoming part of the chain.

    My wife was hurt due to gossip in that church. It turned out she was a "smokescreen" for an affair between an associate pastor and another member.

    One thing I thought would help stop the spread of the wild lies that gossip forms is to find out the truth first-hand, then feed it back through the "gossip loop." Although it didn't teach anybody any lessons about refusing to gossip or to believe the gossip, it did stop the threads to which I was privy. Had I known about #5, especially, at the time … well, I'd probably be left out of the loop as a "weirdo." Yes, that's sad.
    Twitter: joe_sewell

    • Thanks for sharing Joe. Sadly I've heard similar stories many times and it's many times why people aren't in a church today