How Should Christians Respond to Gossip?

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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.

 How Should Christians Respond to Gossip?PinShe 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?

 

 

 

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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 PinSara 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, www.faithfulfinishlines.com. 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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  1. 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.

    1. 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! 🙂

  2. 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.

      1. I’m so very sorry. The love between brothers & sisters in Christ is going by the wayside. Social media is not helping. I’m dealing with a situation myself in a Church I have been in for over 20 years. Satan is reaping havoc everywhere & even in Churches. I will pray for tour situation.

  3. 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.

    1. 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.

    2. Does it help if someone tells you that it was none of their business and you don’t need to care what they think? One of the things that makes gossip sting the worse is when we are tied up in situatiins like you describe where reputation and livelihood are leaving us exposed at the root. Your parents should stand to defend you, not regarding sins you may have committed but on the score that gossip is itself a heinous sin, one that proves to the world that what appears Christian is just a cheap suit. Ducks aren’t afraid of water, and real Christians are known by how they handle their mistakes.

    3. This is a travesty in the church and I am so sorry you have endured this hardship. Jesus was hated and falsely accused and even crucified. You are blessed when men speak evil falsely about you. God bless you.

  4. Gossip might be closer to the root of all evil than we give it credit for. But there is some comfort in simply choosing not to care because everyone has a past, everyone has baggage, and a person “doesn’t”. Have baggage but engage in gossip they are creating a past, a history of meddling and facilitating the work of the enemy in the church. Shut your pie hole is good advice. There is also a spiritual dynamic, the writer of Ecclesiastes says to be careful what we say even in our bed chamber, for the birds of the air might reveal the matter. So grace and forgiveness have to be involved on all sides. Why is it that the women are so often the key vectors of gossip in the church? Regardless strife like this gives a bad reputation to churches and the wise learn to steer clear.

  5. One of the worst instances I have experienced with Gossip was as a newly single woman in the body of Christ. My husband had cheated on me and we got divorced. I noticed that as an attractive, single woman, my behavior was closely watched and my conversations almost always resulted in nearby persons evesdropping (just to be sure I wasn’t saying or doing anything wrong, of course…) Yet when hearing bits and pieces of a conversation, but not the whole thing, someone always gets it wrong. As a result, there are several rumors going around about me that I would love to address, but to whom? I have no clue who the origin was. There are at least three married gentlemen in the body that people seem to think I like. I would never ever consider a married man, and am horrified that people think this. I notice that being an attractive single lady alone causes suspicion, whether my character is impeccable or not. People only see the outside. If I smile at a man taking care of his child and think, “How nice it is to see that there are still good Christian fathers around,” The next thing you know, someone has said that I like that guy. Or another time I was admiring what great care a certain man took in opening the door for his wife, complimenting her, carrying heavy things for her, and thought, “What a great relationship they have!” I guess I must like him too… another time, I was waiting for service to start and I was staring at the front of the church, mind adrift, and when I came back to reality, a lady was giving me a nasty look. Apparently, she thought I was staring at her man, who had just walked pass the front of the church. I was staring off into space, and had no clue he was even walking by. I have now realized that sometimes gossip begins as the result of what you already perceive someone to be without ever knowing them. I am no threat to any lady at my church, and God knows that is the truth, but I notice the longer I stay single, the more the gossip persists. It’s as if the world wants me to find a husband really quick and is angry that I haven’t done so yet. I cannot help that I am attractive. I don’t dress sexy, act sexy or do or say questionable things. I am very very conservative. Yet, no one seems to see me for anything other than a man-stealer, whether I have actually done that or not. I am only posting this to pose the question: How do we as women treat attractive single ladies in the body? Do we cause gossip because we already feel like we know who someone is, and so are looking to find those exact qualities in that person to support our own prejudices? Are we thinking things that are lovely or of a good report about them? What are our pre-conceived notions about them? Are we evesdropping? Are our feet swift to run to evil or do we think the best of them? I will admit that I feel like a pariah, but I know that I have done nothing wrong. I am saddened that even in church, I get treated like I am dangerous… It makes me feel really alone and makes me want to leave my congregation because I feel like I don’t belong anywhere.

    1. Unfortunately, the divorce you went through has ramifications that were not known. People are people. It may be time to start fresh for you and that means a new church where people will get to know the real you, not the one they’ve concocted in their feeble minds. Sorry, I know this sounds bad, but those who judge are weak-minded. Best wishes to you in the journey to healing.

    2. It could be possible that other women may feel jealous of you or have insecurities. Maybe their marriage is struggling, too? Maybe the enemy is telling them lies about their character and their marriage? I am sure you are praying for them. Walk in the opposite spirit. Possibly give them a compliment- Maybe, follow Matthew 5:23 if you feel you can do it in a godly way– maybe ask them if there is something you did that upset them? Then, you can state your pure intentions. The Lord is raising me up to help fight this attack on women against each other in the church. I am going to start with my church and lead a women’s unity event. We need to raise each other up– empower each other- encourage, not tear down– Not try to compete, compare, or control each other– But rather humble ourselves and say I need what you have. Let’s see women of the church carry swords in their hands fighting the real enemy and not stones in our hands!!
      Praying for you sister–Remember your identity and don’t let the world tell you otherwise.. I know it hurts, but rise above!!!!!

      1. That helped me tremendously in researching how I should respond to gossip. Thank you!
        Rise above
        Walk in the opposite direction;)

  6. My point was not made in an attempt to get people to feel sorry for me. It had a point, which was “why” we gossip, and who we gossip about. A lot of people gossip about people and things that make them feel uncomfortable, all the while not realizing that those people you are gossiping about might also be feeling uncomfortable as well. We need to get past our feelings and learn to look at our fellow Christians with grace and love… to see them at their best. To see them with Godly eyes. Remember, Jesus looked at Mary Magdalene and he only saw someone who needed forgiveness and a chance to make things better. Yet we look at people and discuss their wrongs, as if we have none of our own. I have always believed Satan uses this as a distraction. “Hey! Look over here! Look at what she did wrong!” Then you pray about her, and worry about her, and miss out all the things the Holy Spirit wanted you to work on inside of you. It stops you from making the changes Jesus wanted you to work on in you. Jesus said get the plank out of your own eye. If we are gossiping about everyone else, we may not even notice what’s going on inside of us. It’s a tool the devil uses often and well. He can isolate one person while distracting another. Double Whammy! It’s just something to be mindful of. Remember, the bible says there are many voices in this world, and none without significance. If you believe the Holy Spirit is telling you what’s wrong with everyone else so you can “pray” for them, or fix them, then you are wrong! The Holy Spirit is not a gossiper! Unless you are that person’s pastor, teacher, or authority figure, than he is not going to tell you their business… (unless there is some strange extraordinary circumstance at play) He’s going to tell you your business, and tell them their business. He may lead you to pray for someone, but he isn’t going to tell you about their sin or wrongdoing. Satan is the accuser of the brethren, not God. If all your thoughts, worries, conversations and prayers are about someone else, and you are never working on you, then you might be one of those people we have been talking about. I pray we all learn to see each other through Jesus’s eyes, and not through worldly eyes. It would sure be a welcome change.

  7. I got my heart absolutely broken and oddly it was the pastors wife who was the gossip. The last straw was when a new person to our church but had been a Christian for sometime pulled me aside and said she was just tearing people apart, one persons son right in front of someone elderly who started crying. She tore her husband the pastor apart, spread rumors, and he would hear none of it, it never happened, even tho other people also told him and I brought her with to the meeting ( I had already gone to her first Math 18 and it was just us 3, tough I know, his wife). He just became furious at me even though I had been there for many years and it was hurting people and the church. Several people had already left. I have to say I am much happier in the church where I am now, but I felt like I lost family. I am really glad that my current pastor talks about mission life together and loyalty to the Body of Christ and sticking up for our friends if they are not there to defend themselves, I think Jesus would. Thank you for sharing your experiences. This was really tough.

  8. How bad is it if you told the person whom others have been talking about, what they said, while thinking she already knew what they had said? I probably wouldn’t have said anything if I knew they didn’t tell her to her face. I been trying to give emotional support while others vent but the venting has been overdoing it.

    1. Oops. I guess it depends how hurt the talked about person is. I don’t know that it’s sinful, but maybe not the wisest choice. Although if it were an accident, there’s not a whole lot you can do but try to make amends (and stop listening to the venting in the first place!) Hope all is well! 🙂

  9. I’m happy to have found this post about the damage from gossip. Gossip never bothered me when the gossip was about me. I’d either leave and go somewhere else or find better friends. When I joined a church K-group a few years ago, we dedicated our time to praying for others. I prayed for the same person for two years, a far-away friend suffering from alcohol addiction. Recently, my friend was in a car accident and his family confided in me that alcohol was involved. I shared this sad news in confidence with my K-group leader who verbally responded in love, yet at the same time went out on a public Facebook page, fire department where accident was reported, and unlovingly posted that the driver was drunk. This post was seen by my friend’s family who felt betrayed by me. I exposed the K-group leader’s actions to the church in truth. Women must love and respect one another in the church, and be held accountable when their words and actions harm the ministry of Christ.

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