October 1, 2012 by Stacy McDonald

When People Gossip about You…

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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?

The Tongue, Judy Rogers

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)

(See That Neon Brotherly Speck)

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:

  1. Is there any truth to what they are saying?
  2. Am I doing anything that would lead people to believe the wrong thing about me?
  3. At any time, have I secretly done or wished to do what they are gossiping about?
  4. Have I ever gossiped about others in this same way?
  5. Have I confronted the one who has allegedly gossiped about me?
  6. 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)
  7. 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!)
  8. 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.

Defining Gossip

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)

Click here for more articles that talk about the sin of GOSSIP

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16 Responses to “When People Gossip about You…”

  1. Schonna says:

    Thank you. I have been dealing with a situation for months and you have put into words what I could only think.

  2. Alethea says:

    Thank you so much. As a preacher’s wife, I deal with this often. I have to remind myself that even though sinless, Jesus did not make much of a defense as he was going to the cross. I so much want to defend, especially when pertaining to my husband, but have to stop myself. This was much needed.

  3. Diane says:

    Oh Stacy, this is such a difficult thing for me to deal with!

    I can forgive almost anything without even breaking a sweat, but gossip? About me?? About my children??? Oh my goodness, my heart turns to stone and I freeze up in a muddle of resentful unwillingness… I’m unwilling to give the teensiest smidge of understanding, to see my own fault in the situation, and especially to forgive. Sometimes I think I’ve gotten it under control, that I’ve forgiven, but then I find that old familiar desire welling up within me…. I want to speak out and explain “my side,” justify myself, proclaim the “truth” (which of course is really just my own personal version of the issue, and perhaps.. perhaps… not really so much closer to the Truth than what was originally said. ouch. ouch ouch.

    And then I am reminded of Matthew 18 and my old friend, the unmerciful debtor … sigh… Pray for me Stacy?

  4. Stacy McDonald says:

    Alethea – Sadly, gossip is a common problem in a lot of churches. I do think there is a time and a way to speak the truth in a matter, and even to defend ourselves – especially as it pertains to ministry. However, we usually react, rather than respond biblically. That’s where we get into trouble.

    Diane – I know what you mean. Walking like Jesus sure doesn’t come natural!

  5. Amber says:

    This is timely for me, too. For a year + now, we have been dealing with extended family members and the consequences of the gossip that they love to share about us. The problem is that, yes, there was some bad/unfortunate things that happened in our own family a couple of years ago, but my family member blew it WAY out of proportion to try and cover up her own involvement in it. I have had a hard time dealing with someone who claims to be a Christian, someone who is supposed to be close to me, yet deeply betrayed me, purposely causing other close family members to betray me as well, and has actively spread the most crazy lies about us to make herself look ‘better’. Everyone involved in this case has repented and changed, except for this one female. And she is the one who’s done the worst damage. I backed away from her several months ago and haven’t had much to do with each other in quite a while. Thing is that I’m okay with that. Does that seem like unforgiveness to you? I’ve been accused of that, too, but I honestly don’t have a problem with disincluding people in my life who only wish to cause the worst problems for me and my family and who show no repentance to a changed life. I feel like I have done everything that God has asked me to do with these people, and I feel a freedom now in releasing them.

  6. Mary says:

    Certainly a sin to be guarded against.

  7. Jennifer says:

    Stacy, well-done! I’ve never been unlucky enough to have a huge rumor spread about me, but my poor sister had a rough time for a while at the middle school she temporarily switched to. She remained a tough cookie, but never sank to their level, and years later one of the gossipers apologized and said my sis was the kind of person she wanted to be! That makes an older sister proud :)

  8. Jennifer says:

    Oh yes, there was an online incident for me: I made friends with a guy online over a year ago. Well, if you can believe it, another guy who was envious of our friendship began pasting this horrible set of rhymes with my name in them on all the online discussion threads I visited, attacking me viciously. I still said some things I wish I hadn’t and I still hope he gets better, but the best solution I had was to report his ugly posts and wait the storm out. Not really the same thing as a rumor, but it sure was a public attack.

  9. Debbie says:

    Thank you for your article. Two of my children brought up gossip to me at different times. I need to keep an eye on this. I have a new friend that refuses to gossip and it is also, giving me more to think about. Thank you.

  10. Stacy you have done a great job for our Lord! Thanks and keep up the good work!

  11. rcjr says:

    Stacy, thank you for this. Well said. That said, what does it say about us that every comment so far has been only from the victims of gossip, none from confessing perpetrators? Isn’t it likely that even with all the careful and sound questions/tests you have laid out, that we are still blind to our own gossiping? I think I need to be far more concerned about how to stop gossiping than I need to learn how to deal with being gossiped about. The former is far more damaging to my soul than the latter.

  12. Stacy McDonald says:

    Hi RC – Thanks for commenting! I think you’re right. It’s probably because we’re sure to “feel the sting” when people sin against us, but unfortunately, it’s too easy for us to ignore or minimize the sting our own sin causes others.

    For instance, I may forget to pray for you if you have a migraine, but I can guarantee you I won’t forget to pray for myself while I’m experiencing one. Our own pain gets our attention – it’s memorable to us. It’s another way we often fail to love others as we do ourselves.

    Also, that’s why I included the definition of gossip at the end. Too often, we make excuses for why it’s okay in “this” situation to gossip.

    That being said, while I agree that participating in gossip is much more damaging to me than the fact that I’ve been gossiped about, it IS just as damaging to my soul if I respond sinfully when I am gossiped about. And that’s my tendency.

    If being gossiped about creates in me an attitude of wrath, self-pity, victim-hood, or self-righteousness, then I have failed to glorify God in the midst of my trial. That is my natural fleshly inclination, and that was the main point of the post.

    For me, I have found that I MUST keep at the forefront of my mind just how sinful and weak I am, even if I’m not guilty of what I’ve been accused of. I’m not saying I am always successful, because I’m not; but, that is my goal. I need to do that, so that I can respond biblically to the sins of others, as well as my own.

    Indignation and righteousnessness causes turmoil, stress, and pain; meekness helps keep us grateful and at peace. That’s where I want to be.

  13. rcjr says:

    Well said again sister. thanks

  14. Lana says:

    I found your lovely write up when researching Gossip and how to deal with it. Being a Christian it is more of a battle as we are called to do the right thing, which can get very confusing as we are human too. My situation is a little different and its between us 3 siblings. I heard from one sister what the other sister mocked about my family,so when I confronted her gently I heard all the things that the other sibling ridiculed me on. We’ve had many issues growing up but this time husbands involved too and and now we are all in our 40s. I am still hurting but I feel a sense of peace when I think of forgiving them but the one who started the whole thing is still angry with me for having confronted my other sister in the 1st place. I am back to normal relations with the second sister but I wanted all the things you said in your article, the justice, God to bring justice..them to say sorry but they said it between each other but not to me. I am still confused as to why we do this to each other though? Had they gossiped and never told me, that would have been perfect..but the Devil is alive and He wants discord.

  15. Jess says:

    This has blessed me sooo much! just wanted to say thank you. There is so nasty gossiping going around our church right now in the name of “looking out for one another” the sad thing is the leader who is involved in all this thinks she is correct and not in sin. I have forgiven her but it still hurts and hurting others. Thankful that these trials push us closer to Christ.

  16. Lauren says:

    Thank you for this article. I have recently found out that my own family has been gossiping about me. This article has calmed my nerves and given me focus so I can calmly confront my family. I cannot thank you enough for helping those who are Ina similar situation that need this guidance. You have been my North Star today.

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