The Danger of Gossip in Christian Relationships


Everyone will surely have witnessed the problems that gossip can cause. Relationships can be damaged, sometimes badly, by unkind words spoken about people behind their backs. And sadly, among Christians there is plenty of this that goes on too.

Worst of all is when the rumours that are spread aren't even true. Satan and his demonic followers are the masters of deception, and at one time or another we have all doubtless fallen into the trap of believing that someone has acted badly, only to find out later that the person was actually innocent of the matter in question all along. Some of us will also probably be able to think of times when we mistakenly passed on false information about people. Thus,

Even if there is no doubt that a bad report about someone is true, however, great harm can be caused by the unkind response of those who hear about it and fuel the gossip engine by passing on what they hear. If Christians learn that a person has acted badly, far too often they just tell others without considering whether that is actually the right thing to do. Ponder for awhile what Scripture admonishes in this regard, "A dishonest man spreads strife, and a whisperer separates close friends." (Proverbs 16:28)

We must all strive to love everyone, however, and that needs to include what we say about people when they are not present. There is obviously a sense in which people who are not there when others are talking about them are especially vulnerable. They can't defend themselves, and Jesus certainly wants us to be careful to treat vulnerable people well.

In my own life, so as to try to avoid saying anything inappropriate about anyone, I have set myself a little rule. This is never to say anything negative about someone who is not present unless I can think of at least one specific reason why I believe God would want me to. If I can't come up with a particular reason, then I won't say anything. At least, this is my intention, even if perhaps I don't succeed in following this rule all the time.

The Christian life, of course, is not about keeping lots of rules, but is about living in the Holy Spirit. Nevertheless, living in the Spirit does not conflict with occasionally making ourselves a rule or two to try to live by, and this is one that I find helpful.

Even if Christians prefer not to make a rule in this respect, however, we must all strive in one way or another not to speak harmfully about people behind their backs. Scripture demands that of us: "Love is patient, love is kind...It does not dishonor others" (1 Corinthians 13:4-5; NIV). Love demands that of us.

It is true that there are times when we do need to speak negatively about people when they are not present. Even in the church, there are occasions when a Christian does something, perhaps commits a sin of some sort, and others really do need to become aware of what has happened. Or maybe a person might have hurt us by something they have said or done, and we feel that it would be helpful to let someone else know.

But unless there is a good a reason for passing on the negative information, then we shouldn't. As far as we are concerned, the tentacle of gossip that has reached us can be severed without reaching any further. The gossip engine can be switched off at this point.

Even if we have a close relationship to someone, that doesn't make it right to pass on gossip to them. Just because someone is meeting a close friend doesn't mean it is OK to tell them of the bad report about a person that they have heard. Or just because someone is married doesn't make it right for them to pass on gossip to their spouse. The top priority is to love the person who people are gossiping about, and love will not speak negatively about someone who is not present unless there is a good reason for doing so.

Let us all strive, then, to avoid spreading rumours and gossip about people. So much damage to relationships could be avoided if every Christian made the effort to do this.

Also read: Articles on practical daily Christian relationships 

By Max Aplin. He has been a Christian for over 30 years. He has a Ph.D. in New Testament from the University of Edinburgh. He is a UK national and currently live in the south of Scotland. Check out his blog, The Orthotometist, at