The Ambiguous Sin


Whoever gossips to you will gossip about you. —Spanish proverb

Everybody agrees that lying is wrong. Some may even lie for convenience but when confronted will admit that lying is wrong. Everybody hates to be lied to and stolen from. It erodes trust which is the foundation for all relationships. Gossip is a different story.

Gossip is not universally believed to be a sin. Why? Because gossip is telling the truth about somebody that damages their reputation. (Note: Telling lies about somebody is slander if it’s spoken and libel if it’s written.) The sin is more subtle and devilish because the gossiper is deceived. Gossip is ambiguous from man’s viewpoint but God is clear that gossip is sin.

Gossip is a devastating sin because it’s reputation rape. If murder is committed it can only kill a person once. But gossip can occur multiple times. How do you recognize gossip? If the information influences your opinion of somebody negatively then it’s wrong. Since information is power then it’s tempting to want to feel powerful by tell a secret.

There are many excuses for gossip.

  • I told them so that they could pray.
  • I only told my best friend(s).
  • Tearing down another person makes me feel better.
  • I only told the truth and the truth will set you free.
  • I like to be the first person to share a secret.

What is the solution? Think before talking. If information has been entrusted to you then consider if sharing it will cause the receiver to be cautious or think less of somebody. If somebody has committed a crime or is danger then contact somebody in authority.

God calls gossip: whispering, backbiting, tattling, and talebearing.  Here are some impacts of gossip:

  • Separates close friends (Proverbs 16:28)
  • Cause deep wounds(Proverbs 18:8, 26:22)
  • Fuels a quarrel (Proverbs 26:20)
  • Betrays trust (Proverbs 11:13, 20:19)
  • to speak down about somebody (Romans 1:30) throw under the bus

Gossip is not tolerated by friends because of the broken trust. The relationship could be broken causing separation or bruised resulting in a shallower relationship.

Gossip causes deep wounds because of the damage to one’s reputation. This can cause shunning, avoidance, isolation, or judgment from others due to the new knowledge. Unfortunately, most people will not verify information that they learn from gossip.

Gossip reveals secrets that are damaging and best kept under cover.

Gossip is a way to put down or degrade somebody’s reputation. Sometimes this is a way to make the gossiper feel better.

Gossip is a major cultural problem. Tabloids are filled with gossip. Paparazzi zealously pursue photographs without permission to fill the tabloids. Here are some of the examples:

  • Did you hear who she is dating?
  • Did you know that he is gay?
  • Did you hear that she is pregnant?
  • Did you hear they are getting a divorce?

Some of the sources for gossip are: National Enquirer, TMZ, OK magazine, People magazine, US magazine, etc. The magazines are hard to avoid due to placement beside the checkout line. Here is an example of the impact of an inappropriate tweet, retweeted by a gossiper.

This nightmare came true for Justine Sacco, a PR consultant who posted an offensive tweet—just 12 words to her 170 followers—while boarding a flight to South Africa.

Some gossip clings to people for decades, even after they die.

The audience is just as guilty as the gossiper. If there was not an audience then gossip would cease to exist. It is a sin if you listen to gossip instead of correcting the gossiper or walking away. Born again Christians should never gossip.

If leaders fail to promote open communication then gossip will fester. Open communication is needed to address questions, concerns, and doubts so that gossip is squelched.

Guard your heart and guard your tongue to live a righteous life.


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