People love to know and share rumours and secrets. They often don’t think about whether it is true or not. They add some details, and a lie here and there so that they can get the right reaction. They become storytellers of the worst kind. They want to know about fights and give their opinion.
“Also a ship is very big, and it is pushed by strong winds. But a very small rudder controls that big ship, making it go wherever the pilot wants. It is the same with the tongue. It is a small part of the body, but it brags about great things. A big forest fire can be started with only a little flame.” James 3:4-5 (NCV).
Backbiting and gossip: A message that spreads like cancer
Many people see stealing, anger and jealousy as sins, but they often don’t think that gossiping and backbiting is also sin.
“Avoid worthless, foolish talk that only leads to more godless behavior. This kind of talk spreads like cancer.” 2 Timothy 2:16-17 (NLT). Backbiting can come to us so naturally. A simple conversation can become an opportunity to complain or speak negatively about someone. Maybe we have something against someone and secretly want others to share that same thought, adding our own opinion to get the others to agree, “Oh, yes, he is so much like this,” or “It’s absolutely horrible how she gets away with that.” By backbiting, we encourage others to backbite as well.
The results of backbiting are terrible: Division, fights, suspicion. Satan loves division. He loves any opportunity to break down fellowship and unity. It is terrible what gossip and backbiting can tear down. “Gossip separates the best of friends.” Proverbs 16:28 (NLT).
The effect of backbiting stays for a long time. Over time, a small issue can become a big one that creates a wall between friends.
Growing in love for one another
“Be kind and loving to each other, and forgive each other just as God forgave you in Christ.” Ephesians 4:32 (NCV).
To come free from gossip and backbiting, we first of all need to grow in love. Are our words building up bonds of love, or are they tearing them down?
It is written in Matthew 12:34 (GNT): “For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.” If our mouth is quick to speak evil of the others, what does this tell us about our hearts? How much love do we really have if we are so quick to talk badly about the others behind their backs?
When we really love the others, it simply isn’t possible to backbite them. All complaints against them disappear. Love is written about in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 (NCV): “Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous, it does not brag, and it is not proud. Love is not rude, is not selfish, and does not get upset with others. Love does not count up wrongs that have been done. Love is not happy with evil but is happy with the truth. Love patiently accepts all things. It always trusts, always hopes, and always remains strong.” If this is the kind of love we have for the people around us, we would even see the smallest thought of speaking badly about them as terrible!
We need to pray to God for help so that we can grow in love and show goodness and kindness towards the others. If we think someone is doing something wrong, we can pray for that person and God will show us how we can help. Maybe we can go to the person in a spirit of love and ask them for the truth about the matter, rather than backbiting them. It’s nearly impossible to keep evil thoughts against someone we are praying for, or to backbite him or gossip about him. We need to focus on the positive and be active in praying for the others. By sharing this love, we can help to bring peace and rest.
Have you heard a rumour or story about someone else? Just let it die with you! “Without wood, a fire will go out, and without gossip, quarreling will stop.” Proverbs 26:20 (NCV). Even letting the rumour run around in our thoughts is the first step on the path towards division and quarrelling. Lies spread like wildfire.
A firm decision to be finished with backbiting and gossip
What should we do if others around us begin to gossip or backbite? Maybe we are in a conversation where people are speaking badly about someone else. “Hey, did you hear about what he did?”
If we don’t do something about it, we are just as guilty as the ones who brought it up. We cannot take part in gossip and backbiting in order to be “friendly”. Are we willing to fight against this? Do we want to be finished with backbiting?
People will often defend themselves by saying that what they say is true. This is not an excuse! “If you judge someone else, you have no excuse for it. When you judge another person, you are judging yourself. You do the same things you blame others for doing.” Romans 2:1 (NIRV). Even if every single word was true, we need to remember that backbiting, talking badly about someone behind his back, in itself is evil! If we listen to backbiting, we are also guilty.
Bless and edify one another
“Don't say anything that would hurt [another person]. Instead, speak only what is good so that you can give help wherever it is needed. That way, what you say will help those who hear you.” Ephesians 4:29 (GW).
Our mouths can be used to do a lot of good in blessing and uplifting the others, or a lot of evil and damage in speaking badly about the others. “Out of the same mouth comes blessing and cursing.” James 3:10 (BBE).
When we start fighting against gossip and backbiting in our own life, we can become an example for others. And people will sense that gossip or backbiting are totally wrong.
We need to watch out at all times so that we can build unity with our words, instead of tearing it down. “If we love others, we live in the light, and so there is nothing in us that will cause someone else to sin.” 1 John 2:10 (GNT).