My most painful memory of choosing gossip is when I wrote three sentences about a friend of mine in one of my early books. (Don’t worry; it’s out of print). I didn’t use her name and I thought, “She’ll know this is her and it will help her see the truth about her struggle. It will help her.”
What was her struggle? Hating being gossiped about. Isn’t that ironic? I was so deceived that I was using gossip to help her not be so sensitive about being gossiped about. That’s the deception gossip can cause.
Did she know it was her? Oh yes, and it destroyed our friendship.
Proverbs 16:28 warns us, “A perverse man sows strife, and a whisperer separates close friends.” (AMPC) Proverbs 16:28 is true. It did separate us and no amount of me asking for her forgiveness ever brought us together again.
Can I say I never gossip now? Most likely not. But I’m so glad that sinful strategy doesn’t have the same stronghold on me it used to.
Commentators tell us the verb “sows” in Proverbs 16:28 indicates the idea of sending forth like seed which “hurls as a missile weapon.” The word “whisperer” is a graphic term we can picture in our minds. It has the idea of a person who hides their words and also their intentions. They can later defend themselves by claiming they weren’t heard clearly.
Gossip gives us the feeling we know something someone else doesn’t.
Listening to gossip can make us feel needed or included in a special group, especially if we want to be favored by the gossiper or we don’t like the person who is the object of the gossip.
Another sinful motivator can be someone is entrusting us with important information.
In all of this, we are believing God created some people inferior and lower than us. We are defaming God’s image within that person. But every single person has been created in God’s image, whether or not they acknowledge it. He created them with intrinsic worth and value even if they have smudged it themselves.
A good way to determine whether we are gossiping is to ask ourselves, “Would I say this about her if she were standing here hearing it?” TWEET THAT!!!!
We can also ask God to reveal the motive of our heart. Do we hope to gain something or feel better about ourselves because we are a tale-bearer with seemingly the inside scoop?
Everything we do, including any human connection or friend we choose and maintain, reveals the motives of our heart. If we are not choosing God as the ultimate provider for our emotional needs, we will demand from others what they cannot fulfill. When they fail us, we will be tempted to respond in ungodly ways. If someone rejects us who we thought would make us feel special, we may gossip about them. Or if we think our image in someone’s eyes is less than we want, we may follow after them into sin to gain their approval.
These temptations are often subtle and alluring. We must be alert to quickly catch wrong desires within our hearts which will energize sinful responses.
When I sinned against my friend over 30 years ago, it destroyed our friendship. I’ve never forgotten the damage and remembering has helped me to receive God’s help to love others well and not gossip.
See if this “Letter from God” to you, His Princess is meaningful as you think of the temptation of gossip.
My precious Princess and Daughter:
Friendships are one of my many gifts to you. They lift you up when you’re discouraged and increase your joy when you’re happy. Yet, I never intended for friends to be a substitute for me! If you enjoy a person’s company more than mine, something’s wrong. I am the only one who can meet all your needs, the only one who can give you all the love you need.
I want you to have friends, to cherish the moments you spend together, to be there for each other, to seek their help. I particularly designed you as a woman to value relationships and to cultivate good ones.
When a friend blesses you, my loved one, know that I am the source of that. When a friend disappoints you, know I am still there, offering my unconditional love and acceptance. Sadly, there are times when a friendship may be destroyed. But my love will never end. Nothing can separate you from my friendship.
Your heavenly Father, the King
(This commentary on Proverbs 16:28 and the Letter from God are adapted from my women’s Bible study on the biblical book of The Proverbs. Heart Wisdom: Daughters of the King Bible Study Series.