October 1, 2012 by Stacy McDonald
He said that you said that I said that he was a liar
But what he said that you said that I said, it just isn’t so!
Can’t you see – that the tongue can destroy like a fire
When we whisper and spread around gossip wherever we go?
Reposted from July 10, 2011
How do you react when you find out someone has been gossiping about you? If you’re like most people, your heart may begin to race, and your first reaction is to become angry and defensive, especially if what is being said isn’t true. We all have the desire to prove our own innocence; and, when someone drags our name through the mud, we want to prove their guilt too.
I know what you’re thinking: there’s an element of justice to be considered. We want to see the innocent (us) avenged, and the guilty (them) punished. We forget that we are a people of unclean hands and unclean lips. Compared to those “bad people” who offend us, we may seem innocent; but, it’s an illusion. We must compare ourselves to Christ’s holiness, not man’s filthiness.
Oh, I may not have lied about that, but I have surely lied. I may not have said that, but if you only knew what I really wanted to say! I may not be guilty of that, but I am surely guilty of much worse.
For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you. (Matthew 7:2)
We say, “God, go get him!” But, God says, “You know not what you ask!” As Nathan said to David, “You are the man.” (2 Samuel 12:5–7) When we desire to see “justice” visited upon our neighbor, we should consider what that means for us.
Condemn not, and you shall not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you.” (Luke 6:37–38)
A good thing to do when confronted with the fact that someone has gossiped about you is to examine whether or not any of their words are true. Am I giving them something to gossip about? I tell my children this when a sibling has been tattling on them. “Why do you give them things to tattle on? If you were doing the right thing, they would have nothing legitimate to say.”
Of course, this is not always the case. We all know there are busybodies and tongue-waggers that cross the line from gossip to outright slander. They either exaggerate the truth or, in some cases, flat out lie. We may not be able to control the wicked things people say about us, but we can do our best to make sure there is no truth in it, and respond in a godly manner.
Of course, this does not minimize the gossiper’s sin. Since Scripture tells us that God literally hates “a false witness who speaks lies, and one who sows discord among brethren” (Proverbs 6:19) we should all be terrified of falling into such a sin. Still, we can use trials like this as an opportunity to examine our own hearts. I know for me, God has used times like these to reveal to me the depth of sin in my own heart – sin I had been blind to. So, if you discover that someone is gossiping about you, consider asking yourself the following questions:
- Is there any truth to what they are saying?
- Am I doing anything that would lead people to believe the wrong thing about me?
- At any time, have I secretly done or wished to do what they are gossiping about?
- Have I ever gossiped about others in this same way?
- Have I confronted the one who has allegedly gossiped about me?
- Do I know for a fact that ___ has gossiped about me, or am I believing hearsay? (Don’t automatically believe a bad report, or you too may be guilty of listening to gossip)
- Have I responded in love to those who have gossiped about me, believing the best about them? (This is a hard one, so be careful!)
- Have I asked the Lord to show me ways that the particular sin I’m accused of may in some way be true? (Important!)
If the gossip is untrue, and if you have done everything in your power to confront the gossiper to no avail, are you willing to put your reputation in God’s hands? Are you willing to suffer for the cause of Christ, rather than sin in return (Matthew 5:39; 1 Peter 2:20–24)?
Keep in mind, if someone tells you that someone else is gossiping about you, that person may be gossiping too. Unless your informant confronted the original gossiper by saying something like, “I don’t want to gossip, so maybe we should go to ____and work this out right now, ” then they too may have in some way contributed to the conflict. We need to be peacemakers (Matthew 5:9)!
These six things the Lord hates, yes, seven are an abomination to Him: A proud look, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that are swift in running to evil, a false witness who speaks lies, and one who sows discord among brethren. (Proverbs 6:16–1)
Avoiding common vice is one thing; but, responding biblically to the sins of others, well that is another matter. Few things are more difficult. When someone sins against us, the very best thing we can do is to grieve over the fact that God is not being glorified, and then purpose in our hearts to make up for it by blessing that person in return. But, too often, we respond like for like; and two people then grieve God, rather than one. If we bless, rather than curse, then Grace is manifested in our lives in a real and living way…and Jesus is glorified.
But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. (Matthew 5:44–45)
Extend much grace today? Think about it.
Some people seem to think that, as long as they are convinced that the uncharitable thing they are saying about someone else is true, they are not gossiping. But that’s not the way it works. There is a difference between gossip and slander, though anytime we gossip, we risk slandering someone.
Gossip is sharing derogatory information about someone else (whether or not we believe it to be true) with those who are neither part of the problem, nor (rightfully) part of the solution. This may come in the form of a “prayer request,” a passing comment, requesting counsel from an inappropriate source, or sometimes even at the request of another person.
“I’m not gossiping about Jane; I’m just sharing the truth when people ask. I’m not saying anything I wouldn’t say to Jane’s face.”
It doesn’t work that way. You see, when we gossip, our “facts” are skewed to fit our own personal perception; so, in addition to our sure sin of gossip, we also risk bearing false witness by slandering our neighbor. We are not fit to “judge rightly,” which is proven by the fact that we are gossiping in the first place. Gossip is a poisonous fire; it divides brothers, complicates matters, and destroys all in its path. Be a firefighter: “Where there is no wood, the fire goes out; and where there is no talebearer, strife ceases.” (Proverbs 26:20)
The first one to plead his cause seems right, until his neighbor comes and examines him. (Proverbs 18:17)
Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all sins. (Proverbs 10:12)
A perverse man sows strife, and a whisperer separates the best of friends. (Proverbs 16:28)
He who covers a transgression seeks love, but he who repeats a matter separates friends. (Proverbs 17:9)
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