There was a magnet that hung on our fridge for many of my childhood and teenage years—a Norman Rockwell painting called “The Gossips.” The painting is a progressive series of conversations beginning in the top corner with two women. The first lady is pointing over her shoulder, sharing some juicy tidbit about someone behind her with the second woman. She, in turn, shares this information with another, and it gets passed along from one person to the next, until you come to a man pointing and laughing at the man who is the subject of all the gossip. Then, the last conversation is him—clearly upset—confronting the originator of the story.
This little picture always fascinated me, and I stopped to ponder it on many a trip to the kitchen. Even at a young age, and though it’s a rather comical picture, the sobering meaning wasn’t lost on me: gossip is a sin, and it hurts others.
We were made to use our mouths for the glory of God. He created them for rejoicing, for worship, for loving others, and for proclaiming how great and good our God is. But sin has tainted our tongues, causing them to be used as weapons that have the potential for great destruction. One of these is gossip.
I’ve felt the sting of knowing others have talked about me behind my back, and to my great sadness, I’ve used my tongue to gossip, too. As image-bearers of God, we were never created to say anything unloving or hurtful about fellow image-bearers. Why? Because this goes directly against the character of God.
We need not look any further than Romans 1:28–30, which says, “And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless.”
That’s a pretty awful list, and gossip sits right in the middle of it. It is people who don’t acknowledge God who are defined by these sins, so those who call ourselves by His name should have nothing to do with them.
Colossians 3:12 tells us exactly what we are to be defined by: “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.”
It’s easy to believe in our heads that gossip is wrong, even determining not to enter into it ever again. But it’s so easy to be deceived into justifying it when someone wrongs us, when we don’t see eye-to-eye, or simply when someone rubs us the wrong way. If we’re not on guard, pride can sneak into our hearts and cause us to find someone to share little tidbits of information with, cutting down someone else to make us look better or feel better about ourselves.
It can even be done under the guise of spirituality by sharing “concerns” or “prayer requests,” tacking on a “bless their heart” at the end of it. But, no matter how much of a righteous sheen we try to put on it, if the motive is not love for God and the other person, then we need to just keep our lips closed.
As Amy Carmichael so poignantly put it,
"If I can enjoy a joke at the expense of another; if I can in any way slight another in conversation, or even in thought, then I know nothing of Calvary love.”
One of the amazing things about being saved by Jesus is that we have the incredible joy and privilege of being like Jesus. The Holy Spirit enables us to live in a way that is impossible in and of ourselves. So not only are we saved in eternity, but we are saved on this side of heaven to be sanctified and made more and more like Him. We’re enabled to use our mouths encourage, to love, to forgive, to bless, and to speak life and truth.
It’s never too late to repent of using our tongues for evil. But I’ve already done so much damage with my words, you may be thinking. Or, It would be too shameful to confess these things to someone else.
The incredible thing about the gospel is that when we confess our sins, Jesus is faithful and just to forgive us and cleanse us of all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9). Yes, there may be consequences we can’t undo. There may be fires we’ve caused with this tongue that we will always regret. But as we walk forward in repentance and humility, freshly surrendering our mouths to be used for the glory of God, He transforms and uses us to speak from a heart that knows just how much we have been saved from.
Here are some helpful questions to ask yourself if you’re not sure whether you’ve fallen into the trap of gossip or are considering saying something to about someone to another person.
- What is my motive for sharing this?
- Will these words cut down the person I’m talking about?
- Is the person I’m sharing this with going to bring truth and life into the situation? (Because sometimes it’s important to seek wise and godly counsel about relational struggles. We just need to be sure we’re sharing with the right people for the right purpose.)
- Would God be honored in the way I’m speaking about this person?
It’s never too late for the Lord to begin to teach us how to use our tongues for good and not for evil. There is no greater joy than knowing we are being vessels to love others in His great name. So, by His grace, let’s use these mouths He’s given us to point others to our amazing Savior, Jesus.
Heather Cofer is a wife and mother with a passion for encouraging others to love Jesus with all their hearts. This comes through writing, leading worship, and being actively involved in life-on-life discipleship alongside her husband, Judah, who is one of the pastors at their church. She is a regular contributor for the ministry of Set Apart Girl, and you can follow along on Heather’s journey through her Instagram or Facebook.
Contributors to the "Behind Closed Doors" series are sharing personal stories about sin, and the redemptive hope found in Christ within Christian community. Our mission at Well-Watered Women is to equip women with a deeper understanding and love for God's Word, and we also encourage women who are struggling to seek the help of biblical counselors and/or medical professionals. You are not alone!