The Damage of Gossip

A perverse man stirs up dissension, and a gossip separates close friends. –Proverbs 16:28

An old proverb relates the story of a person who repeated gossip — some rumor about a neighbor. Soon, the whole community had heard the rumor. Later, the person who spread the gossip learned that the rumor was untrue. The person was very sorry and went to an elder in the community who had a reputation for great wisdom to seek advice. The elder told the person, “Go to your home and take a feather pillow outside. Rip it open and scatter the feathers, then return to me tomorrow.” The person did as the elder had instructed. The next day, the person visited the elder. The elder said, “Go and collect the feathers you scattered yesterday and bring them back to me.” The person went home and searched for the feathers, but the wind had carried them all away. The person returned to the elder and said, “I could find none of the feathers I scattered yesterday.” “You see,” said the elder, “it’s easy to scatter the feathers but impossible to get them back.” So it is with gossip; it doesn’t take much to spread hurtful words, but once you do, you can never completely undo the damage.

Gossip is one of those areas of the Christian life that is so important for us to work to restrain–because of the potential damage it causes–but so difficult for so many of us to get under control. It is so easy for us within the Christian community to gossip about others, often within our own community of faith, because we do so under the banner of “sharing”. We “share” with others about a friend’s “problem” because we want others to pray for them. (Wink. Wink.) The reality is, however, that it’s just plain gossip. Gossip feels good. It feels good to know something about someone else and to share that something with another. Yet, even under the best of motives, “sharing” easily turns into “gossip” and we do damage like the proverb points out, that we can’t completely undo.

Nothing is more deadly to relationships than spreading false rumors and gossip. The wise person keeps their tongue in check. The next time you are tempted to gossip remember the proverb of the feathers and how your words, once they do damage, may never be completely undone. Ask God to give you the wisdom and strength you need to resist the urge to gossip.

1. Have you hurt someone recently by gossiping about him or her, even under the context of “sharing”? If so, are you willing to ask for their forgiveness?

2. What can you do to help keep yourself from gossiping about others today?

Leviticus 19:16; Psalm 15:2-4; Proverbs 10:19; James 3:1-12

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Jim Liebelt

Jim is Senior Writer, Editor and Researcher for HomeWord. Jim has 40 years of experience as a youth and family ministry specialist, having served over the years as a pastor, author, editor, consultant, mentor, trainer, college instructor, and speaker. Jim’s HomeWord Culture Blog also appears on Jim and his wife Jenny live in Quincy, MA.

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