How Do I Know If I’m Gossiping?

    Gossip is one of those habits for which we tend to make excuses. Whether in the name of friendship, conversation or even “exchanging prayer requests,” gossip parades as harmless—when it’s actually a sin. Though we might not feel like we’re doing much damage with our words—especially when the person in question isn’t there to hear them—the effects of gossip are far reaching. More importantly, God hates gossip, because gossip prevents us from loving His people. “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear” (Ephesians 4:29). This verse, penned by Paul to the church at Ephesus, gives us a framework for our speech.

    If you’re not sure whether or not your conversation is veering into gossip, ask yourself the following questions:


    • Does this build up others? If you’re discussing someone with your mentor in order to better your relationship with that person, the conversation has a goal. Gossip doesn’t have a goal, and conversations characterized by gossip only serve to tear down others—and tear down our own character. Before discussing another person, we should ask ourselves “What is my goal in this conversation?” and also “Does this build up my listener and does it build up my own character?” Though a gossip thinks she’s protected from her own words, they actually work against her, facilitating a critical spirit that destroys her friendships and witness for Christ.

    • Does this fit the occasion? Gossip rarely fits the occasion in which it is used. It usually has to be “invited in,” brought up by the person who wants to have the discussion. Any occasion—a coffee date, party or just a hangout among friends—should be centered on genuine love for others. When we refuse to love people with our words, we can’t authentically love people with our relationships. We might think we love our friends—after all, we’re not gossiping about them!—but if we refuse to love the people outside our immediate circles, we’re misunderstanding God’s definition of love. His love is not exclusive. It does not show favoritism. And it does not malign people behind their backs. Gossip never fits the occasion, and therefore it shouldn’t be spoken among Christian women.


    • Does this give grace to my listeners? This last question helps us discern between a healthy conversation whose goal is reconciliation (e.g., “Should I stay friends with a spiritually toxic person?”) and gossip. It’s possible to graciously discuss whether or not you should stay friends with someone who betrayed you. It’s possible to show grace while talking about an acquaintance’s upcoming wedding. But it’s not possible to be simultaneously gracious and critical, judgmental or rude. Cutting and snide remarks, knowing looks and even inside jokes—if displayed publicly to make a point—do not show grace to our hearers. God asks us to show grace because He shows grace to us. If God has set this example, we need to follow it!


    The true character of our hearts is revealed not in how well we worship in church or how often we read our Bibles, but in how well we love the way He does—even with our words.

    Phylicia Masonheimer
    Phylicia Masonheimer
    Phylicia Masonheimer is an author and speaker teaching women how to discern what is true, discuss the deep stuff, and accomplish God's will for their specific lives. She holds a B.S. in Religion from Liberty University, where she met her husband, Josh, and now lives in northern Michigan with her two daughters, Adeline and Geneva.


    1. Gossip is so contiguous (>_<) but I get caught up in it too, sometimes I wonder how do I get away from it whn I have to do stuff and I have to hang out and ppl talk way too much about ppl,def need help in this

      • I deal with this a lot, too! But I’ve found a good role model, my band teacher. When she hears something that might not even be “that bad” about other people, she sticks up for them and calls the conversation to a close. She also changes the subject, when need be. My advice would be to always be on the lookout to protect other people and put an end to potentially harmful comments quickly.

        If you can’t end the conversation or change it, I’d suggest not taking part of the chat to avoid the temptation to slander others. Other things you could do: telling the people how destructive gossip can be, and/or saying positive, uplifting things about the person in question, not focusing on the bad points.

      • Hey Katy! I think it depends on the person. If it’s a parent/authority figure, you might respectfully say, “I’m not comfortable discussing this person.” or, often more effectively, say nothing and change the subject. Definitely pray for them, especially if it makes you feel bitter/resentful (and that’s a natural feeling to have!). But perhaps refrain from open correction out of respect for their age. I hope that helps!

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