I recently talked with a good friend and the conversation turned to (among many things) the topic of gossip, something like this:
Person A – I don’t think people realise the wider impact gossip has on a community.
Person B – What do you mean?
A – It robs one person of an opportunity to apologise and to pursue reconciliation.
B – [Intrigued, tell-me-more nod]
As we talked it became clear to me that as hurtful as gossip can be in the moment, there are much further reaching and deeper consequences that I had just not considered (and that I am grateful were shared with me). What they said is too good not to share.
Ironically, if someone feels they haven’t been shown the grace, care, or love they desire and takes issue with that, by gossiping they are actually depriving others of the very same. There is no grace in gossip and depriving others of something we clearly value so highly just doesn’t make sense.
By involving others in the sharing of our complaints (an awkward position that nobody wants to find themselves in) instead of speaking with the source we are actually withholding the opportunity for it ever to be made right. We find ourselves, indirectly, doing the very thing we claim to be offended by and we totally miss the moment to see the Gospel at work among us. Imagine:
He/She did this or said that and therefore didn’t treat me right…so I will complain to someone else about them and by doing so not treat them right…
One wonderful aspect of the Gospel is that when we accept that we are sinners (Romans 3.23), when we accept that we cannot earn our righteousness nor prove ourselves good enough (Romans 3.20, Isaiah 64.6), we have the opportunity to turn to God in repentance and faith to find grace and forgiveness (Daniel 9.9, 1 John 1.9, Isaiah 45.22, Joel 2.12-32). Gossip cuts off this crucial step of acceptance.
Let’s be clear: gossip is a serious sin (Romans 1.29, 32) and contradicts Jesus’ very clear teaching on conflict among believers (Matthew 18.15). It hurts others, divides friends, and damages relationships ¹. Beyond this short and straight truth it causes, as I have learned in conversation and through experience, collateral damage that (hopefully) nobody intends. Gossip is the opposite of the Gospel. It’s bad news that cuts people off, not Good News that restores.
For a longer read, try this article by Matt Mitchell, author of Resisting Gossip:
Or this from Erik Raymond at The Gospel Coalition: