How Should Christians Respond to Gossip?

Guest Post by Sara of The Holy Mess

My teenage daughter came to quietly stand next to me in the church entryway as I chatted with members on a bustling Sunday morning. As the pastor’s wife of a large church, Sundays are full of work, worship, and commitments, but I love it.

One look at my daughter’s face, though, told me something was not okay.

If you've ever been on the receiving end of gossip, you know how much it can hurt. So, what's the appropriate way to respond as a Christian?

She pulled me aside and shared a conversation she had just heard. I was left speechless, then shaken and angry. Several church members had talked about confidential information concerning our family. Word had spread around the church, and then gotten back to our daughter.

People were gossiping about us.

Gossip Hurts

Have you ever been the subject of someone else’s gossip? Almost everyone has been there at one time or another. At the least it’s painful and embarrassing, and even worse it can damage relationships, careers and families.

As a pastor’s family, we live in the proverbial fish bowl. The reality is that people will talk about our family, and there’s not much I can do to make it go away.

If you have been the subject of other people’s gossip, I feel your pain. It’s bad enough when it’s just my husband and me, but when it affects my children, my mama bear instincts are to fight back with everything in me!

As a Christian who wants to respond as the Bible teaches, how should you respond when people gossip about you?

What to Do When People Gossip About You

There are three distinct ways to handle other people’s gossip about you. Each is correct according to the Bible, so this requires much prayer and discernment to decide how to handle your specific situation. You might even find yourself using all of these for the same problem, depending on the day and with whom you are speaking.

1. Speak Your Truth (and Do it First When You Can)

Your first option is to get the truth out there on your own terms. I realize this is sometimes risky and scary, and can only be done in some situations. Some information must remain confidential. However, this is my preferred method most of the time.

Secrets and assumed secrets are what fuel gossip. If you tell the truth first, there isn’t much for people to gossip about.

A couple years ago, my husband made the incredibly tough decision to publicly announce to our congregation that he was struggling with depression. We went into this decision with the support of our elders, his doctor and therapist, and I stood by his side while he made this announcement. My husband is now recovered from that burn-out and emotional depletion. While it wasn’t an easy time, his honesty made it so that people did not have to secretly talk and wonder about what was going on with him.

2. Be Silent

The second option is to simply allow the gossip to be there. Trust that God will protect you and provide for your needs. Consider Exodus 14:14, when God is instructing Moses during the parting of the Red Sea: “The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.”

One of my friends often quotes this phrase about gossip,

What other people think of me is none of my business.

It’s tough to be silent when you know others are speaking about you behind your back, but often it’s the best course of action.

3. Confront with Love

Perhaps the most tricky in situations with gossip, yet also the most helpful, is to go directly to the person who has hurt you. Pray first to be sure you are going with correct intentions and that your emotions are in check. The goal of the conversation is to restore the relationship, not pick a fight.

Ask questions; don’t accuse. Gossip requires more than one person and usually includes a number of people.

It’s also possible that the source is not who you think. I once thought my best friend had shared one of my secrets, when in fact one of my children had overheard a conversation at home, and shared all the details with her friends at school the next day! I had no one to blame but myself.

If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother.” –Matthew 18:15

A Few Final Tips For Dealing With Gossip:

  • Allow yourself the hurt feelings you will have, and don’t push those away. If other people gossip about you, it’s normal to feel hurt or even betrayed. Give yourself time to grieve.
  • Whether you choose to speak or be silent, remember to do it with love. Colossians 3:14 says, “And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.” This is not an easy task, but it is your calling.

Have you ever had people gossip about you? How did you respond to the situation?

Sara Borgstede is a triathlete, speaker, and writer. She has been maintaining a 100 lb weight loss for 10 years, and runs an online faith and fitness program for women, She is mom to 5 kids through birth and special needs adoption, and she and her husband Mike were foster parents to 35 children. Sara takes a lot of power naps.

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hello. i’m a pastor’s wife as well. i’m sure people in our congregation talk here and there about my husband and me, but not concerned about anyone bashing our name because thankfully our congregation sees us as normal people. my husband isn’t elevated over anyone else in the church other than someone who cares for the flock. he is greatly esteemed by the people and i feel loved and appreciated as well. i would just as a caution avoid writing articles about people’s behavior in your congregation. i’ve read so many christian books by women for women that give countless personal examples of sin using people from their congregation. it can also become a backhanded way of telling your own side of the story or a way to gossip without it looking like it. because of that, i’ve stuck to mostly books written by men that get to the heart of the matter without throwing people under the bus. i’m not saying this is the case for you, but i do want to just remind you that perhaps when you write articles about sin, you could do a more general statement rather than talking about people in your midst because i’ve always thought, surely people from this person’s church are reading this and having conversations and speculations over who was the guilty party, and that certainly lends ear to talk.

Very good point. I do think this example is SO general though that it really could apply to a number of people and situations. It really isn’t specific enough to call out one person or group of people. But you’re definitely right that that is something we need to keep in mind! 🙂

I am a widow who was left without any support. I am a Christian and I started to attend a church in the town I was residing in. I started going to this church in November of 2016. Since I have been going there I have not been received well and have only made one friend. I also attended a women’s Bible Study group around the same time. I was having trouble finding a place to live and let the Pastor and the Bible Study Instructor know. After several months of praying one of the ladies from the church offered me a place to stay in her home. She shared this information with another member and the gossip spread throughout the church. Apparently Widows who are poor have no value in this church. I feel very hurt and wish I could move on. I am waiting on the Lord to let me know what to do. I am not feeling the Love of Jesus at this church. Thank you for the article.

I am an adult pastor’s kid. I grew up moving around the country and my parents have been in full-time Christian ministry my entire life. My parents are very well-known in our denomination. Last year, some people at a church in my community found out about a difficult situation in my life, but had no understanding for the reasons behind it. (It was related to physical and mental health issues, and was a private matter that I didn’t want to have to explain to the world.) They began gossiping about me. They made assumptions. They judged my motives. They falsely accused me, and because of my parents’ role in our denomination, the news about me basically spread to everyone I’d ever met, both across the country and around the world – childhood friends, people from churches I grew up in in different states, missionary friends, extended family across the nation. Life as a PK was hard for me growing up, but this is over the top. It is the worst thing that has ever happened to me, and I’ve lost all of my friends – lifelong friends. The church has a lot to learn about gossip.

Awww, I’m so sorry to hear that you’ve had to go through all of that. The good news is that even when people fail (and we all definitely do at times!), Jesus never does. He is still truth and love and goodness – even when people can be real jerks. Stand tall. Be loved.