10 Things I’ve Learned About Gossip – And Why I Hate It So Much

Young woman telling a secret to a man

I hate gossip.

I realize hate is a strong word. But it’s the one I prefer here. I’ve seen so much negative results caused by gossip.

Gossip happens in families, in the workplace – wherever two or more are gathered – gossip will be among them. And, gossip is always destructive to building healthy relationships. I hate gossip in any setting – but especially in the church.

Relational gossip – especially among believers – shouldn’t even exist. We have to violate a lot of principles of God’s plan for the church and believers for it to exist at all.

Gossip is destructive and has no part in our lives or in the church. I’ve counseled with families caught in drama after the loss of a loved one and gossip is fueling their division. I have witnessed gossip destroy a healthy work environment. And, I have worked with so many churches where gossip – drama – is a leading cause of why the church isn’t healthy – isn’t growing – isn’t accomplishing all God has for the church.

(I expanded this from a previous post where I addressed drama in the church. I decided gossip was the broader issue – and it applies to all relational settings.)

And, I’ve learned a few things about gossip.

Here are 10 things I’ve learned about gossip:

Not all rumors are true. In fact, most aren’t – especially not exactly as they are presented. When we repeat things we shouldn’t we seldom get all the facts straight. There is usually something we don’t understand.

People like to expand on what they think they know. People love to speculate, add their opinion to what they’ve heard. When they do the story gets further from the truth. People enjoy telling others “the good stuff”. With practice, some have even learned to make things “bigger” and “better” than reality.

There is almost always more to the story than what you know. Whenever multiple people are involved there will be multiple sides to the story. Even in stories involving only one person – if we aren’t hearing it from them – we only know what we know. We don’t know another person’s thoughts, history, or individual circumstances. And, it may or may not be what your mind stretches it to be.

Sometimes people don’t consider the ramifications of what they are doing. This is so true and so potentially damaging. I have seen gossip destroy a person – even seen it run people from the church – and some of the people involved in creating and furthering the drama wonder later what happened. They honestly didn’t realize the damage their rumor-repeating was causing. It’s so easy to get trapped in drama without considering the damage being done to others. I’m convinced, people don’t always intend the harm they cause.

Gossip is fueled by reaction. When someone tells you something you shouldn’t even know – the way you respond often determines how many times it’s told again. If you gasp with wonder and interest – the person sees they have something and are motivated to seek the same reaction in others. If, however, you appear not as interested or intrigued the person may feel disarmed somewhat from sharing it more.

Some of the juiciest gossip is disguised as a prayer request. Be honest. You’ve done or seen this done many times. People do this to pastors all the time. “Pastor, please pray for the Jones family. I’ve heard their son is really causing them problems. Just wanted you to know so you could be praying.” And, actually, many times they just wanted me to know so they could be telling.

People often stir drama for personal advantage. It could be to advance their own agenda. They may be on a power play. Sometimes people talk about others thinking it will make them feel better about their own life. And, sadly, I’ve known people who seem to get a “cheap thrill” out of creating drama. (I’ve never understood this one – but it’s true.

The only reliable source is the direct source. Every. Single. Time. In fact, a good discipline would be to not repeat anything which wasn’t from a direct source.

Thumper’s mom was right. If we can’t say something nice – we really shouldn’t say anything at all. If we all lived by this principle there would be far less drama. And, far less pain caused as a result.

Gossip destroys. Gossip can bring down a person’s reputation quickly. Start a tale about someone and watch their character unravel in front of you. It happens to celebrities and politicians. I’ve seen in happen to pastors, individuals, and entire churches.

The point of this post is awareness. Most of my readers are believers. Some non-believers, however, will likely share my distaste of gossip in relationships. If you’ve made it this far in the post – you and I can make a difference in stopping gossip from spreading by how we respond to it.

You may want to read my post 7 Ways to Stop Gossip Or, even better, read the Book of James in the New Testament. Or maybe Ephesians. (Specifically note 4:29).

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

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35 thoughts on “10 Things I’ve Learned About Gossip – And Why I Hate It So Much

  1. I agree that gossip is destructive. However, I have seen christians silence someone who was actually attempting to bring a real issue to light. By the christian standards of many, the apostle Paul would be labelled a gossip when he said in a letter to an entire church group, that Alexander the metalworker did him great harm, or that Diotrephes loves to be first among them. He said this without the whole preamble of going first in private. Clearly telling the truth about one's negative interaction wtih a sinning person isn't always wrong if Paul did it. So there is clearly times when truth telling is acceptable. And other times when its unfair and is sinning by gossiping. Would love to hear some clarifying with this aspect of scripture in mind. Thanks.

    • Gossip is done quietly, in the dark, off-stage. A gossip doesn't generally want the person they are talking about to know it. On the other hand, what Paul did was out in the open and in no way controverted Jesus' teaching on stages of discretion regarding church discipline from Matthew 18.

  2. Another great post, Ron.
    I too hate gossip. I hate so much that my wife and I decided, years ago, to not even entertain gossip amongst ourselves. Even when we enter into a gossip session, thought it's between a husband and wife, it's still a destructive act. Our words build and our words can also destroy. So we decided not to. It could be hard sometimes when we're trying to plan events, or improve an area of our church or family event. But we have to be conscious not to cross the line between evaluation and gossip. Not easy, but possible. I think people that enjoy gossip just need to get a life – they've got too much time in their hands 🙂

    Anyway, thanks for the reminder of how much we hate that sin.

    Keep writing brother –

  3. I'm glad you referenced your previous post. How we respond to gossip is important and those are some good tips on that other article. Particularly, we need to mind our curiosity and practice being bold enough to shut down a gossip when we hear it. Part of the issue is addressed in Internet parlance: FOMO – Fear Of Missing Out. I've shut down gossips enough that I don't get gossip much. Frankly, I'd rather be left out of that kind of social activity. But it has also opened me up to ministering to some people who are gossiped about when they find out that I'm the one who hasn't heard about some issue they have had. I end up getting the truth directly from them because they know that I won't betray their confidence and they can trust me to pray for them and give them helpful moral and spiritual support. I wouldn't give up that kind of ministry for all the juicy half-truths on the grapevine. Those grapes are sweet, but incredibly poisonous. It's a ministry killer.

    Something else – With regard to prayer requests: The line can get pretty blurry. If it's obviously gossip, I'll shut it down. This is when you can tell that the person sharing a "prayer request" is not actually coveting prayer. But if I have a question as to its validity, I'll ask someone if they have talked to this person or people and if they mind if I talk to them as well. That usually clarifies the issue pretty quickly. If it pans out to be legitimate, I will ask if this is something that I need to keep confident or if I can share this in prayer with others. I have groups that pray, some explicitly confidentially. This helps me to discern what groups I can share with, what groups not to share with, or if I just need to pray alone on this one.

  4. Hey Ron, love your posts! I've been seeing a lot of church drama recently. What I've learned? "Blessed are the peacemakers" and there's always more to the story. I resolve to be a difference maker.

  5. I think of Paul the Apostle who said in 1 Corinthians 2:2.. For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified.

  6. Was in ministry for almost 30 years. Retired. Only 10 per cent of ministers retire as a minister. You nailed why. People without Christ have an excuse. Love ministry…reaching the lost….outside the church.. Lost in the church will kill ya.

  7. So, this brings me to a dilemma. Many people send out "prayer requests" to their friends and family, asking for prayer for so-and-so and their situation. The requests are never opinion, or about sin in their lives, or anything like that, usually for healing, comfort, and so forth. The prayer group has seen some great miracles too, real turn arounds. Is this gossip? When do those "prayer requests" turn into gossip about others? Where do we cross the line between sharing for the sake of prayer and gossiping about others? Any ideas?

    In my mind, it becomes gossip when it strays from fact to motive, or from request to cause, and things like that but I'm open to wisdom on this. It's sort of an important thing to nail down I think, for both ends of the discussion.

    • I think intent here is the real issue. We can't make decisions for how others will respond. Sharing prayer requests is absolutely still permissible and a good idea…but we must guard our heart fro why we are sharing.
      Twitter: Ronedmondson

    • Do not go around asking people to pray for someone, when you know that that someone may not want you to. A person's personal problems are just that-personal. And just because you have knowledge of their issue does not give you permission to spread that knowledge. This is called gossip. It is gossip even if you think you are helping the other person. It is gossip even if you think they won't find out. It is gossip even if it is true or not. It is gossip even if you disguise it as a prayer request. Respect your friend's privacy and your friendship. Do not talk about their personal information unless you ask their permission first. Gossip ruins friendships.

  8. The one thing I keep coming back to: The Church is made of people, just like the ones we see every day outside the Church. If we can ever figure out how to better deal with, even get rid of the drama IN the Church, we will be better equipped to effectively share the Gospel OUTSIDE the Church.
    Twitter: bryankr