Everyday Encounter with God

Pastor Sylvia's Encounters with God in the Midst of Everyday Life


Encountering Gossip

I remember the situation like it was yesterday. The queasy stomach, the tears I fought to hold back, the incredible hurt I felt in my heart.

"You know, Sylvia,” my friend Candy said, "No one really wants to come to your party, but our moms say we have to. Some of our dads work for your grandfather. If we don’t show up they could lose their jobs.” I felt myself tense. "That’s why you don’t really fit in very well here,” she assured me.

I thought I might be sick. There it was! The thing all junior high school students fear most... not being part of the crowd.    

As Candy (the most popular girl in our class) continued to list for me every critical thing my supposed friends said, I was crushed. My mind raced. Suddenly I didn't have a friend in the world.

All because of gossip.

In the book of Romans, Paul includes gossip among the sins of murder, envy, greed, deceit and malice. He said "those who do such things deserve death."

So why does God despise gossip? Because when we say mean things about others, we're inflicting emotional pain on them. Instead of punching them in the nose, we shoot daggers into their heart. As Christians, we're supposed to honor God in all areas of our lives. Talking negatively about people—whether friends or strangers—defies Christ's unconditional love.

That conversation with Candy was over 50 years ago. Here’s what I’ve learned since then. There are three possible responses when people attempt to speak badly of others.

  1. Speak out. Kindly but firmly tell your friends that gossip is hurtful and that no one benefits from it.

  2. Be positive. Turn the conversation around by saying something nice about the person being talked about.

  3. Walk away. Don't be part of the problem by sticking around to listen. People don’t gossip if no one is willing to pay attention.

We hear gossip everywhere—at school, at work, and especially on social media. But what about in ministry? Malicious words can show up anywhere. Gossip may not be as blatant at church as it is on Facebook, but it still happens.

For example, a friend tells you her parents aren’t getting along and she asks for prayer. Do you immediately notify the church prayer chain, your relatives, and any other Christians you can think of—all with the seemingly good intention of soliciting prayer for your friend’s parents?

If so, stop, drop and …

  • Resist the urge. Don't break her trust, even if it's for something good like prayer.

  • Pray. Do as your friend asked—talk to God.

  • Talk to your friend. Would she like you to share her prayer concern with anyone else? Get permission before you disclose her personal information.

We've all been guilty of gossip at one time or another—intentional or not. And we've all been victims of it too. So how should we react? We can do several things...

  1. Go to God. Talk, cry, scream—whatever it takes to release your hurt. Hand it over to Him... and the sooner the better.

  2. Forgive. Decide to quit nursing the hurt. No matter how bad it feels, let go.

  3. Confront. Tell the person how their words made you feel. Hopefully, this will help you both move forward with a healthier friendship.

I still deal with gossip. But the more I learn about God's grace, the easier it becomes to move beyond hurtful words.   

Remember: sin nailed Jesus to the cross, but it was gossip that took him there.