By: Brenda Rodgers
The phone rang, and it was my best friend. We’ve known each other since the third grade, and it was time for our daily phone call. We started talking about what we were doing that day, events that were coming up that week with our kids, and a frustration or two from the day before.
The conversation continued on to other topics, and as I was telling her a story I said, “You know, she’s the one who had an affair with him and now they’re married with two children. Do you remember?”
The moment the words slid out of my mouth, as nonchalantly as my update on what we had for breakfast, the Holy Spirit pierced my heart. There it was again. Gossip and slander sliding between my lips without any thought until it was too late.
I tried to quickly redeem myself.
“The point being that I’m just trying to remind you of whom I’m talking about.”
But it didn’t matter. It was done. The painful secret that the woman hoped was buried after the affair happened six years ago was suddenly resurrected. It was kept alive by my words.
I struggle with gossip and slander.
Sometimes it’s the obvious kind that starts off like this, “Listen to what she did? Can you believe it?” But more often my good Christian girl persona has trained me to not be so obvious. Now my gossip and slander is more discrete. It’s disguised as a method to:
- Jog someone’s memory (“You know, she’s the one . . .”),
- Rationalize someone’s actions (“Well, she did grow up in an ________ home . . .”),
- Justify why someone doesn’t agree with me (“I think she struggles with ________, anyway.”),
- Or untruthfully celebrate someone’s accomplishments (Did you hear she got that new job? I’m so happy for her! I would never work those long hours and leave my family, but good for her!).
These are the most deceptive forms of gossip and slander because they are disguised as being innocent.
The Lord was gracious to reveal to me how often I committed the sin of gossip and slander. In fact, it was so common that I did a Google search on “How do I know I’m gossiping?” It was hard for me to distinguish between what was just “telling a story” and what was gossip.
When I gossip or slander someone’s name, I keep sin alive that could otherwise possibly die.
Proverbs 26:20-22 (GNB) says, “Without wood, a fire goes out; without gossip, quarreling stops.Charcoal keeps the embers glowing, wood keeps the fire burning, and troublemakers keep arguments alive. Gossip is so tasty! How we love to swallow it!”
Like in my example above, by using someone’s past sin to remind my best friend who I was talking about, I am making that sin live on through her. I am making it a part of her identity. And ultimately I am condemning her by nullifying the power of the Holy Spirit in her life who makes us a new creation when we are in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17). My words prove that I believe Psalm 103:9-12 only applies to me – only my transgressions are removed as far as the east is from the west. However, every one else must be reminded of theirs and live them forever.
God has also revealed to me that gossip and slander are symptoms of a deeper issue within myself – an evil heart.
“Smooth lips with an evil heart are like glaze on an earthen vessel. A hateful person disguises himself with his speech and harbors deceit within. When he speaks graciously, don’t believe him, for there are seven abominations in his heart. Though his hatred is concealed by deception, his evil will be revealed in the assembly.” (Proverbs 26:23-26; HCSB).
Gossip and slander reveal 4 truths about us:
1. They reveal our haughtiness.
Haughtiness is the belief that you are better than someone else. When we resurrect others’ sins through gossip and slander, we are admitting that their sin is worse that our sin. So much worse that it can’t be forgiven or forgotten. Even something that’s not a sin, such as a comment like, “She doesn’t even cook dinner for her family anymore!” reveals a haughty spirit.
What we need to remember is that God hates haughty eyes (Proverbs 6:16). Haughtiness assumes that in our own self-righteousness we are obedient. However, apart from Jesus we can do nothing (John 15:5).
2. They reveal that we are trying to get ahead of someone at their expense.
“’Do not spread slanderous gossip among your people. Do not try to get ahead at the cost of your neighbor's life, for I am the LORD’” (Leviticus 19:16; NLT). When we gossip and slander, we use someone else’s sin, misfortune, or their different choice, to remind ourselves of their seeming flaws to make us look better.
3. They reveal our insecurity.
When we gossip and slander we are insecure in our choices and our identity in Christ. However, God has each of us on a distinct journey to accomplish His will. When we have a growing relationship with God – reading His word and talking to Him daily – we can be secure in our choices even when they are different from someone else’s.
Walking closely with God also reminds us how much we, too, are in need of a Savior. It’s impossible to be good or do good deeds apart from our Heavenly Father. This truth brings us rest. No longer do we have to try to achieve holiness in our own power, but we can rest in knowing that Jesus in us makes us holy. Our identity is in Jesus, not in ourselves or in how we look to other people.
4. They reveal our pride.
Each of these – haughtiness, trying to get ahead, and insecurity – fall under the larger umbrella of pride. We are prideful in thinking we have to be better than others and that we can achieve any type of goodness apart from God. Any good within us comes from the grace of Jesus.
Now, when I’m tempted to gossip or slander, to tell that one juicy story that everyone will gasp over, I ask myself what are my true motives and what do they reveal about my heart. I want to join with God against sin; sharing in the grace He gives others and me. I do this by replacing gossip and slander with words that edify instead of destroy.