Have you ever been in conversation when someone begin to speak negatively about a person you knew? Did it grieve your heart to hear this individual gossiping or speaking negatively about them? Did you speak up and remind the person that this was wrong, or just act as if nothing bad was happening?
Because God’s heart is grieved by gossip and negative speech, our hearts should grieve too. Whether the gossiper or the one being gossiped about, each is made in God’s image and loved by Him. Because of this, we want to know the heart of God for them. Then, we want our hearts to be changed by His so our speech will be changed too.
We have all sinned and are redeemed only by Jesus. Each of us needs Christ daily to grow in holiness, and He calls us to speak the truth in love and build one another up.
At some point, every one of us has done someone wrong–whether against God, ourselves or others. It could have been by mistake or done by choice, yet consequences still come. Everyone has areas that need transformation. None of us is capable of true good without God’s inspiration and enablement.
The point? None of us is worthy to cast the first stone. None of us is better than another and therefore we must put off gossip and evil speaking from our lips.
Seek God’s Heart on the Matter
When confronted with negative speech, I first seek to know God’s heart on the manner. We can pray for Him to help us love that person and seek the truth of His Word. We can ask questions such as: What could have led this person to speak like that about another human being?
It may be that the person gossiping is trying to deflect their own struggle related to a painful situation or a lack of self-worth. Maybe they simply had a bad day or week. The possible scenarios are endless. So when they sin before our eyes, we can take it seriously not in throwing a stone at them, but in showing mercy while also speaking the truth in love. We can remind them that gossip is hurtful and also ask, “Are you doing okay?” And if they are able to receive it: “Is there something bothering you that you need help with? Is there some way you’re in need of resolution or affirmation?”
Sin and ugliness of any kind are never excused (even by having a bad day). Regardless, when someone wrongs us it can be a sign that they need love, kindness and prayer. Pray for them because who knows: You may be the only one praying for them other than God Himself.
In this way, we can partner with God in the work He wants to do in someone’s life. We can join our prayers with His, seeking to love and be kind even if they’ve done wrong.
Negative speech about others should grieve our hearts as it would God’s, whether we hear or speak it. Gossip and slander are not necessary. It is sin and does not please the Lord. Instead it shows where we lack His love for others and ourselves.
An important aside: This also includes our unkind actions and reactions as well.
Before responding to such situations, pray through the following:
- Have I ever spoken in a way that does not reflect the heart of God?
- When others have gossiped about me, how did it make me feel? How can that help me seek to avoid gossiping about people as well?
- Since this person also needs Christ, will I choose to show love and forgive them?
- Will I ask God to help me see them through His eyes?
- Will I pray for them to know the Lord, who can meet their every need and give them the true worth and identity they long for?
- Will I pray for them to let God transform their hearts?
I pray that we will experience the conviction of God’s Spirit when we hear gossip or are tempted to speak wrongly ourselves. May we grow daily with a passion to love others as Jesus has loved us, even when that means sharing difficult truths such as speaking up about gossip.