What should you do when someone gossips to you?
When someone starts saying to you, “I really don’t know if I should say this, but….!” Gently cut them short there and tell them, “If you don’t know if you should tell me what you’re about to tell me, let me help you.” And then kindly ask them: “Why do you want to tell me what you’re trying to tell me?” Press further: “By telling me what you’re trying to tell me, do you think it would be helpful for everyone?”
In some cases, when you’re in the middle of a conversation people don’t give you the chance and the gossip had already started. What should you do in such a case?
1. Listen objectively without taking sides and hold back judgments.
“The one who states his case first seems right, until the other comes and examines him” (Proverbs 18: 17). Listen with sympathy about the person being talked about, knowing that the person being talked about is not present to be able to defend himself/herself. Don’t chime in or endorse! In some cases, the person may come crying. When that happens, out of love for the person it’s easy to believe everything the person says. Sometimes, people cry not because they are innocent, but their burdens have become too heavy. In some cases, tears can be manipulative. E.g: When Esau returned from his hunt, he wept bitterly. But Esau was the victim of his own foolishness. He sold his birthright eagerly for a morsel of food to this brother, and when the blessing was given to Jacob (the swindler), he blamed it all on Jacob with tears– without admitting his own foolishness. We are skilled self-swindlers. It’s easy to feel sorry for the one who’s crying rather than the dry-eyed one–because when they cry, they look like they’re the victim. We must listen well, without being prejudiced.
2. Gossip can destroy respect for the person being talked about.
It is wise to refrain from arriving at conclusions based on what you hear about the person. Gossip is second/third or fourth hand information and when a morsel of truth is passed on, truth gets distorted and becomes diluted, disproportionate and mixed up with personal opinions and judgments on the person’s character and reputation (sometimes this is done by well-meaning people unintentionally).
Realize that gossip is a deep character problem and is as sinful as the sin of the person being talked about.
Proverbs says that those who gossip are untrustworthy: Proverbs 20:19 “A gossip betrays a confidence; so avoid anyone who talks too much.” Avoid the gossiper next time, or gently confront the sin recognizing your own sin. “Whoever goes about slandering reveals secrets, but he who is trustworthy in spirit keeps a thing covered” (Proverbs 11: 13). Those who gossip to you will gossip about you because they are not “trustworthy in spirit.”
3. Let gossip end with you.
In other words, do not pass on gossip. Leviticus 19:16 says, “‘Do not go about spreading slander among your people. “‘Do not do anything that endangers your neighbor’s life. I am the LORD.” Gossip is smearing a person’s character–created in the image of God. It is a disobedience to the commandment to love your neighbor. Even if the report being said about the person is true, refuse to become a carrier of bad news. Seek for clarification prayerfully, and ask God what to do with the bad report. Proverbs 16:28 tells us how poisonous gossip can be: “A perverse person stirs up conflict, and a gossip separates close friends.” Do not become a person who adds more fuel and “stirs up conflict” and don’t allow the gossip to separate close friends.
Someone once said that gossip is Giving Others Some Strife Instead Of Peace. Sadly that’s what gossip does. It brings more strife than peace! It blows an element of truth out of proportion! It pours fuel into conflict and sets on fire whole communities. It poisons relationships and multiplies misunderstandings. Gossip never has positive outcomes! Besides, there’s a lot of truth that need not be passed around. Gossip is always on the erring side because gossip is confessing other people’s sin without giving them the chance to repent. And gossip is a like a terrible drug, and very addictive. For many people, they have to pass on bad news about someone, some churches or ministries because (like a drug) a day without gossip is incomplete. Hence, gossip becomes an idol–something people can’t live with– something that gives them momentary pleasure more than Jesus. And it won’t help to tell the person to control the tongue, because to be free from gossip an axe must be laid at the root of gossip. “The tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness” (James 3: 6). But the root problem of gossip is the heart, “for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.” (Luke 6: 45).
Pray and give room and time for grace, repentance, healing and restoration for the gossiper and the person being gossiped about.
“For lack of wood the fire goes out, and where there is no whisperer, quarreling ceases.” (Proverbs. 26: 20).
The way to put out gossip is not to pass it on. Do not add “wood” to the fire of gossip and inflame whole communities. If no “whisperer” passes on gossip, quarrels and strife will cease. John Owen said, “Be killing sin or it will be killing you.” Don’t kindle the fire of gossip, kill it.
Moralism flails at the branches– but the Gospel cuts to the roots of gossip. Ultimately, Jesus was slandered on our behalf. They called Him “Belzebul” (the prince of demons) yet He was without sin. All the accusations hurled at Him were wrong about Him. Yet He endured the cross for our sake. He was accused of demon possession when He did not even know sin. Even His most noble motives were challenged, yet in what appeared to be weakness He conquered Satan, sin and death. In Christ, God offers us a clean heart, a new heart from which we can speak life to our neighbors and give praises to God for His mercies.