Why it hurts
Some gossip is malicious—for example, a lie that is a deliberate attempt to ruin your reputation. But even if the gossip is less serious, it can still hurt—especially when it’s spread by someone you thought was close to you!—Psalm 55:12-14.
“I found out that a friend was talking about me behind my back, saying that I don’t care about other people. That really hurt! I couldn’t understand why she would say something like that.”—Ashley.
Fact: Whether the person spreading the gossip is a close friend or not, it’s no fun to learn that other people are saying bad things about you.
The bad news—you can’t always prevent it
People may gossip for a number of reasons, including these:
Genuine interest. Humans are sociable creatures. So it’s only natural that we talk to (and about) each other. In fact, the Bible encourages us to show a degree of “personal interest” in others.—Philippians 2:4.
“People are always the most interesting subject to talk about!”—Bianca.
“I have to admit, I like knowing what’s going on with people and talking about it with others. I have no clue why—it’s just fun.”—Katie.
Boredom. In Bible times, there were people who “would spend their leisure time at nothing but telling something or listening to something new.” (Acts 17:21) The same is true today!
“Sometimes when there’s no drama, people create it so they have something to talk about.”—Joanna.
Insecurity. For good reason, the Bible warns against the tendency to compare ourselves with others. (Galatians 6:4) Unfortunately, some people deal with their insecurities by spreading negative gossip.
“Negative gossip usually says something about the gossipers. It often means that deep inside they’re envious of the person they are gossiping about. They spread rumors to feel better about themselves, to convince themselves that they’re better than that person.”—Phil.
Fact: Like it or not, people will talk about other people—including you.
The good news—it doesn’t have to paralyze you
You probably can’t prevent all gossip about you, but you can choose your response to it. If you learn that rumors about you are going around, you have at least two options.
OPTION 1: Ignore it. Often, the best solution is simply to let it go—especially if the rumor is frivolous. Apply the Bible’s advice: “Do not hurry yourself in your spirit to become offended.”—Ecclesiastes 7:9.
“A rumor went around that I was dating a boy—someone whom I had never even met! It was so ridiculous that I just laughed it off.”—Elise.
“A good reputation is the best weapon against gossip. Even if a bad rumor about you goes around, when you have a good reputation, few people will believe it. The truth about you tends to win out.”—Allison.
Tip: Write down (1) what was said about you and (2) how it made you feel. Once you have had “your say in your heart,” you may find it easier to let it go.—Psalm 4:4.
OPTION 2: Confront the person who started the gossip. In some cases, you may feel that a rumor is so serious that you really need to talk to the person who started it.
“If you approach the people who are gossiping about you, they may learn that what they say eventually gets back to the victim. Plus, you can clear the air and hopefully settle the problem.”—Elise.
Before approaching someone who has gossiped about you, consider the following Bible principles and ask yourself the accompanying questions.
“When anyone is replying to a matter before he hears it, that is foolishness.” (Proverbs 18:13) ‘Do I really have all the facts? Is it possible that the person who told me about the gossip misunderstood what he or she heard?’
“Be swift about hearing, slow about speaking, slow about wrath.” (James 1:19) ‘Is now the best time to approach the gossiper? Am I sure that I’m approaching the matter objectively? Or would it be better to allow for some time to pass and my emotions to cool down?’
“Treat others as you would want them to treat you.” (Matthew 7:12, NET Bible) ‘If the roles were reversed, how would I want to be approached? In what setting would I prefer to discuss the problem? What words and demeanor would be most effective?’
Tip: Before confronting the gossiper, write down what you plan to say. Then wait a week or two, reread what you wrote, and see if you want to make any changes. Also, discuss your plan with a parent or a mature friend, and ask for his or her advice.
Fact: Like many things in life, gossip is something you can’t always control. But that doesn’t mean it has to control you!