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3 Situations Where You Might Be Gossiping Without Realizing It

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Gossip is toxic. All throughout the scriptures, God warns us against it. And that’s because it’s so damaging. It tears families, friend groups, and even entire communities apart. It sows dissension in the Church and breeds mistrust among the people you depend on most.

Here’s how Solomon puts it in Proverbs.

A dishonest man spreads strife, and a whisperer separates close friends. (Proverbs 16:28)

In short, a “whisperer” is an agent of destruction. If you’re a follower of Jesus, this isn’t news to you. We all know that we should never engage in spreading gossip. Yet it’s so tempting. We gossip far more than we would like to admit.

In fact, we gossip far more than we even realize. 

Gossip is so tempting that we can do it without even noticing that it’s exactly what we’re doing. But just because we aren’t intentional about our gossip, that doesn’t make it any less damaging. It’s one of those “small” sins that feels relatively harmless–until it destroys relationships.

So if you’re serious about being someone who’s trustworthy, empathetic, and safe to talk to, you need to constantly watch yourself when it comes to gossip.

Here are three situations where you might be engaging in gossip without even realizing it.

1. Divulging Too Many Details During Group Prayer Request Times.

This is a classic trope in Christian circles. We’ve all been in a small group meeting where we heard someone share a titillating secret about another person who isn’t present, all under the guise of “prayer requests.”

“Pray for Emma’s son. I hear he’s getting into trouble and running with the wrong crowd.”

“Please lift up our elder board in prayer. I heard they got into a major disagreement at their meeting last night.”

“Let’s keep Mike in our prayers. He’s been really irritable lately. I think there may be some issues he’s dealing with at home.”

These may be legitimate prayers. However, in a group setting, too often we share far more detail than is appropriate. We take an honorable deed (praying for someone) and turn it into a sin (dishing about what may or may not be going on in their life).

Sometimes when people do this, it’s malicious. They intentionally spiritualize their gossip by calling it a prayer request, so they can sin and look spiritual at the same time. We all know people like that. And if you’re smart, you avoid them like the plague.

That’s not always the case though. Perhaps I’m too much of an optimist, but I’m inclined to believe that it’s not even a majority of cases. I think most of us overshare about someone else not because we have malicious intent, but simply because we’re undisciplined in what we talk about.

The solution then is to be more disciplined in what we say. As James puts it, we need to bridle our tongues.

If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless. (James 1:26)

The next time you’re thinking about sharing in a group on someone else’s behalf, consider whether it would be better to keep it to yourself.

2. Not Discerning When Someone Said Something to You and Assumed You’d Keep It in Confidence.

Along the same lines, many of us are far too free and loose with what has been shared with us in other settings too. You may be talking with one friend and see a connection with something that another friend told you earlier that week. So you bring it up to make conversation.

It may be harmless. However, sometimes when a friend is talking with you, particularly if it’s a close friend, there’s an implied confidentiality in the conversation. Meaning that they weren’t intending to share details about their life situation, their struggles, temptations, or frustrations with anyone other than you.