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

I hate gossip.

I realize hate is a strong word, but it’s the one I prefer here. I’ve seen so many 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 be present at all.

Gossip is destructive and has no part in our lives or in the church. I’ve counseled with families caught in drama, such as 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, and isn’t accomplishing all God has for the church.

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 and add their opinion to what they’ve heard. When they do the story gets further from the actual truth. People enjoy telling others “the good stuff”. With practice, some have even learned to make things seem “bigger” and “better” than reality. (And, I don’t mean better in the positive sense.)

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 potentially damaging. I have seen gossip destroy a person. I’ve even seen it run people from the church – and then watch as 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, at least the hopeful side of me is convinced, people don’t always intend the harm they cause with gossip.

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 worth repeating 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 do the 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).

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Ron Edmondson

Author Ron Edmondson

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Join the discussion 40 Comments

  • Janae says:

    My life has been destroyed by church gossip. Because of other people’s misunderstandings and assumptions about me, and failure to ever speak to me about an issue, my reputation and friendships have all been unnecessarily but completely destroyed. How does one ever recover from something like this?

  • Janae says:

    My life has been destroyed by church gossip. How do you move on once your reputation has been destroyed (by the spreading of misinformation and assumptions) and your friendships have all been ruined?

  • Christopher says:

    My family started going to a local Catholic church as it was important to my wife and I went belong in a good Christian community. At first everyone was welcoming and we had no issues. The church secretary and her parents who have been going there for 30+ years were really nice to us and we’re involved in almost EVERYTHING. The father of the secretary is a city police officer and has been for a long time and the mom goes to Mass almost every day. Over the years we got so involved, we taught 4th grade Sunday school, I was a homebound minister, lector, chairperson of our parish council, blog writer for church, created and maintained a social media page, and much more. After becoming the chairperson of our PC these cliques of people who helped so much started stepping back. So I said I would take on the burden for the sake of fellowship. I had great success and even the priest brought it up in Mass. That sent these folks over the edge and rumor after rumor started flying from this secretary and her family. She started acting very immature by refusing to talk to me. I tried to meet with both her and the pastor to which he said just leave it alone and that he wasn’t gething involved in a “playground” feud. My wife and I met him separately and while he acknowledged the problem, he said he didn’t want to do anything because she is so connected with everyone. There was a time when we were all fine with each other but I started seeing them for who they were and how they made other families leave by saying so many false and horrible things. I started standing up for the people who didn’t have a voice or were afraid to speak. Looking back, it was my downfall, but a Christian is supposed to know right from wrong and stand up for what they believe. Well the last straw was this men’s group called the KoC and they begged me to join for the last 7 years no less than 17 times, I finally filled out the application, which the secretary’s father drove to my house, and waited to hear back. This man has so much pull he spread lies about me as well and the only one in that church’s history to be denied by that group. I have no doubt the father knew what he was going to do and/or say when he turned in my application, he was my biggest critic behind my back, yet shakes my hand and smiles to my face. All these men had to do was look at my actions, but no, they turned their backs. Everything I did I had in writing to protect myself, they met with me in a public place, recorded the conversation and said I have my chance for due process, I got there, provided at least 100 pages of emails and such to which they said we don’t want to see it, what’s done is done, but don’t change who you are or what you’re doing cause you’re a great guy, I said me being the way I am is why you denied me. It was clearly BS orchestrated by these select “controlling” family. From my point of view, my family did nothing wrong other than try to do the right thing. I mean my kids were altar servers and we did charity work so what did my 3, 9, and 11 year olds do to them because they started ignoring them too. They obviously thought otherwise. So many people have left because of these folks and I can’t say I blame them. My family doesn’t deserve this so I have resigned from every thing and next Sunday will be our last. Too much bigotry, hate, and double-standards in the church and we are tired of the hurting and pain each time we go. The older people want to control it so bad, let them, but one of these days there will be none of the younger people left to take the reins. Sorry to unload, but your article made me fell like I needed to share our story.

  • one lil' sheep says:

    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.

    • jimpemberton says:

      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.

  • Alex says:

    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 –

  • jimpemberton says:

    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.

  • Rob says:

    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.

  • Brenda Robinson says:

    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.

  • Always a comfort brother. I continue to let God direct my paths.

  • linda says:

    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.

  • kathyfannon

    Yep. This was on my mind this week too. I always love your wisdom, Ron.

  • Joshua says:

    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.

    • ronedmondson says:

      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.

    • Carmen says:

      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.

  • Great post, Ron. If all the world is a stage, then God is the Audience. We should be performing for Him instead of others.

  • bryankr

    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.

  • Maston says:

    One addition: There is too much of the drama and not enough making up.

  • Greg Conley says:

    Amen brother!

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