To reach this point in our series, we pray that you have listened to or read Lashon Hara parts one and two. We also hope that you have an understanding as to why our ministry does not teach “lashon hara” as a principle. Whenever I say this to people, it gets an interesting reaction because some will believe that this means we will tolerate gossiping, lying, tale-bearing, rumors, and such. That statement is not at all true.
As we have stated before, we are a ministry who follows the teachings in the Word of God which include a Biblical diet, the seventh day Sabbath and the Biblical Feast Days. We follow BIBLICAL teachings, not denominational or rabbinic teachings. In several of our other teachings we share why true disciples are not under the rabbinic legal system, in spite of how many believe we should be. As a result, we do not place believers under the judgment category of lashon hara. We don't NEED that system because we are taught to judge in the scriptures by using the scriptures.
Scripture is filled with commandments, counsel, and historical examples which show us how to govern the words which come out of our mouths. There is no need to go to man-made rules, especially flawed rules, for insight on what is gossip and what is not. Over the years, many have come to us with examples from their own lives asking if they are gossip or not. They ask, "Is this conversation or that one sinful or not?"
My hope is this article will give you encouragement to enjoy conversations, while not weighing you down with legalistic rules and requirements. There should be a way to ease your mind so that you will feel comfortable with friends and relatives, while not breaking Yahweh’s commandments.
Please remember, as we have said in a number of our teachings, we do not believe that following commandments is done to earn salvation. Your salvation comes through Christ, alone. Yet once you are saved, you should seek to ascertain how all your ‘beliefs’ are supported by and line up with what Scripture actually instructs. You should be led to follow those things which make you a better witness of Yeshua’s character in you, and an example of righteousness.
Now, let’s move forward.
A quote from our Lashon Hara Part 2 article. “We MUST be aware of our speech. That is very clear. Power of life and death is in our tongue – in the words we speak. God hates gossip (tale-bearing) as much as He hates six other sins – He calls them abominations. Speech is VERY powerful – it can make or break people’s spirits, their emotions, their testimony. Let’s face it, Yahweh spoke this world into existence! How powerful is that! So, do we need to be aware of our words and be cautious of what we speak? Yes.”
The big question then, from many who contact us is: what CAN we speak about other people, and yet ensure we avoid gossiping?
We spent a lot of time in the other two articles covering what we CANNOT say. What we can do and should be saying is all wrapped up in Philippians 4:8 where it says, Finally, brothers, whatever things are true, whatever things are honorable, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report; if there is any virtue, and if there is any praise, think about these things.
How is that for a great description of what we should be speaking of others? True, honorable, just, pure, lovely, good reports, virtuous, and praise – THESE are the words which should come out of our mouths of others when we talk of them.
There are two things in Philippians 4 that often get people into trouble, though. Let’s go over these first: speaking words that they believe are TRUE and JUST. Many times our mouths and minds may believe what we are speaking is TRUTH or is JUST about someone because they have, in our opinion, wronged us. Or in the case of truth, sometimes what we are speaking IS the blatant truth, yet speaking it may not be good for building others up.
What do I mean by this? Well, imagine you saw an alcoholic uncle going into a liquor store one day while you were driving around town. You know that he had been going through a rehab program and had not been drinking for some time, but then you see “this.” Now, you go home, call one of his children or another relative and start speaking about how you saw him there, and HOW LONG he stayed in there. Details and stories like this spread like wildfire in families and even in communities. BUT: Do you know ALL the truth? I can honestly say, no, you do not. You might believe you have ENOUGH information or you have “all you need.” But WHY was he there? Often that key element is the one big question that deeply should be answered. Many people start speaking their truth, though, before they have THE WHOLE TRUTH.
What if you discover later that your Uncle stopped there to drop-off flyers for his rehab group hoping to help others suffering from alcoholism? What if his car broke down and he was in there calling for help? What if he is someone’s sponsor, and the store clerk or owner called him to come pick the person up because they are too drunk to drive home? Before speaking your first truth, one ought to find out THE WHOLE TRUTH. This could easily be accomplished by taking the time to call him, ask him, in all loving kindness, “Uncle, I was concerned today as I was driving to the store to do some shopping. I saw you going into Linda’s Liquors and I was just checking on you to see that everything is alright.” If you feel that you are not at the relationship level with him to make this phone call, it MIGHT be appropriate for you to talk with ONE OTHER PERSON who IS in that position. But choose this person carefully, wisely, and through deep prayer, and choose your words carefully, too. Lest it backfire and create a reputation of your uncle you hadn’t intended to create.
That is one example involving what is true and appears just. My prayer is that you will be able to apply this example to other times when you are tempted to share truth believing it is just and right to do so. We have to be VERY cautious with these two especially and must always take into account the balance of scripture. Examine your own heart, your reasons, your motives for speaking: jealousy? Pride? Anger? Fear or worry? All of these would not be of Yahweh, and are spoken against in scripture. So going back to Philippians 4:8, we need to ensure our heart’s purpose is something that falls into “whatever things are pure.”
This What If section is designed after questions we have gotten from sisters who have asked for help in their own conversations and relationships with loved ones.
-- What if: Your loved one calls and starts talking about another relative to you. How do I know if they are just catching me up on family business and blessings OR that they are gossiping and spreading rumors? Which way is OKAY and which way is NOT OKAY?
I find this is one of the easier ones and it doesn’t just apply to family, but also to friends. Someone calls you and says, “Oh, my goodness! I have to talk to you about Jane! You are NOT going to believe this!” These words could be warning signs right off the bat – your radar should be on right away. If these words are followed by, “She just bought a house in Nebraska! She, her husband and kids are all moving there right away. Her husband got a new job there as well.” And then your loved one or friend starts to share all the details, makes comments about how you guys all grew up together and you share old stories from your childhood and youth.
Gossip or sharing? Sharing.
Why? Because it doesn’t demean, smear a reputation, stir up controversy, spread negative reports of another in any way. It doesn’t have any wrong purpose behind it, no evil reports, no tale-bearing, lies, falsehoods, sensationalization, meddlesome stories, or tall tales. It meets none of these negatives which are mentioned in scripture, and instead completely meets the qualifications in Philippians. Your radar can go down at this point and you can be assured that sin is not a part of the conversation.
If, however the warning words are followed by your caller’s list of all the horrid things Jane did in a situation, things are leaning into the sin zone. You CAN turn this around by trying to counsel your caller that they ought to be talking to JANE about this. It would fit right into Matthew 18:15 WEB "If your brother sins against you, go, show him his fault between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained back your brother.”
If your loved one continues to complain and gossip, you can also give them additional counsel on how to handle the situation Biblically, but at some point you may need to state that you aren’t comfortable talking about Jane in this way. That you are concerned you both may head down the path of sin through gossip, back biting, and rumors. Then ask your loved one if you can talk about something else.
This may cause them to become angry with you – especially if you have been their listening ear in the past. In their anger, you may have to deal with backlash about how you didn’t have a problem with it in the past. I have faced this myself and have learned there is a simple reply, “I know I have. And I apologize for that, especially if I have led you astray in that respect. Please forgive me. I am making changes in my life and in my spiritual walk. I pray you can respect that change in me, and hope it will help us both in our relationship, too.” I will be honest, it could go either way at this point. Sometimes the other person is very understanding, other times, not so much.
When talking to others about friends or family, or when sitting in on a conversation, keep it positive, uplifting, and pure.
-- What if I am having a critical issue with my mother, father, sister, brother, in-laws, spouse, someone in family, and I WANT to be righteous and kind – all while feeling terribly hurt or frustrated with the situation, and needing someone to talk to for counsel?
This one is complicated because it can easily float right into gossip if you are not extremely careful. In your hurt and anger, you could easily stray from the true intent of your conversation, which should always be to come to some form of plan or solution to handle your initial conflict. Asking someone, a good friend, pastor, or mentor, for help in this situation also could cause this person to recall sorrowful memories of similar issues in their own life, leading them into gossip about their own loved ones. You will both need to be guarded in an effort to protect yourselves and each other from sin.
There are times, though, when we DO need help – we may feel as though we have done all that we can. Turning to someone who we value and asking for assistance can bring us peace and even new ideas on how to word something, how to address something, and even may bring rebuke to us that we need. There are times, even in my own life, where I have talked with a dear friend and they have been very direct and blunt with me. Pointing out to me what I need to change in myself. Times when I may have felt justified, yet was instead, self-centered and prideful. Let’s be ready to take that counsel – even if it comes in the form of reproof, correction, or rebuke!
2 Timothy 3:16-17 says, “Every Scripture is God-breathed and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (WEB)
In cases where we definitely do need to reach out to someone for help, we should first and foremost choose our confidant wisely and prayerfully. Use discernment and wisdom choosing someone who will not be a gossip when they leave your company. We should begin with prayer, if the situation allows for it, and ask for prayer when we finish. We should also go into it with an open heart and mind, as well as kindness and love.
We know that grudges, vengeance, unjust anger, gossip, backbiting, and other things that may occur during our conversations are all addressed in scripture. We don’t want to fall into those things, and we also want to be ready to do as is in Proverbs 19:20-21 Listen to counsel and receive instruction, that you may be wise in your latter end. There are many plans in a man's heart, but Yahweh's counsel will prevail. (WEB)
-- What if my friend starts talking to me about another friend? Is this wrong? If that friend is talking about it to look for a solution, is this acceptable?
Again, we need to use caution. If our friend who is talking is truly looking to make amends with the absent friend, then please! Do give advice on how to approach the situation from a Biblical perspective. You may also feel prompted that it is time to let the other friend alone for a time. No matter what has happened between you and the absent friend, this is not the time to feed any hurt or anger with something that may have happened to you with the absent friend. This would be crossing into gossip, back biting, and will only get out of control very quickly, leading you both into sin. This type of situation often happens when there are more than two people talking, too – you and friends are having coffee or lunch and before you know it, an absent party is brought up in a negative light.
Remembering what we discussed in the previous “What if” section, you CAN find a way to turn things around, or remove yourself completely from the situation.
-- What if I just want to sit and talk over coffee with a friend or loved one and catch up on life?
We need this. It’s just nice to have an outlet for bearing one’s soul; someone with whom you can share life’s goings-on, our own or those of others. Hurts, frustrations, disappointments, anxieties, joys, celebrations, inspirational moments, accomplishments, you just want to share them with others. When does “sharing” become inappropriate or self-seeking?
Let’s set the scene: Pretend for a moment that your having lunch with one group of friends and one of them remembers she needs to give you a heads up on the fact that another friend has moved in with her elderly mother. She shares how this friend lost her home to a fire. She shares emotions your other friend is going through, all the ups and downs with fire inspectors, adjusters, insurance companies. The challenges she is has in trying to find a new home. Your present friend is just letting you know what is going on. In case you wanted to help, a fund has been set up at the bank. She shares the address to mail in a check, or explains how you can mail something directly to your friend at her new address.
Next you guys start reminiscing about growing up together and how much fun it was. You share laughter, experiences, memories, and events that took place. This is similar to an example I used earlier. Everything is fine to this point – no gossip or back biting involved at all. Your whole group is enjoying catching up, while showing concern for your absent friend and the struggles they are going through. These kinds of conversations between relatives or friends are how we stay involved in other people’s lives. It is how we stay connected, show charity, be compassionate, love our neighbor.
In this day and age when we are so restricted on how we can spend physical time with our extended families, we need to know that these conversations are okay when they do happen. Even if we spend a little time sharing frustrations from the past, we can help others work through problems or emotions they are dealing with. We need this and are suppose to seek good counsel – scripture tells us this.
Proverbs 19:20 (KJV) Hear counsel, and receive instruction, that thou mayest be wise in thy latter end.
Proverbs 1:5 (New Heart English Bible) A wise man will hear and increase in learning, and a man of understanding will attain to sound counsel.
Now, imagine suddenly, your friend begins to change the conversation to discussing how she was angry and hurt by something your absent friend did 20 years ago. She starts to talk about how rotten it was, how she has never been able to forget what happened. Then she starts to lure you into talking about other incidences where similar happened to YOU. She tries to draw you into the negative conversation and tries to lure you into saying nasty things about your cousin.
What do you think about this example?
Clearly the first part is NOT gossip – even if you are just going down memory lane and reminiscing, it is not gossip. You all simply want to help in what is happening to your other friend. How things have changed, and how she is doing. An update is not gossip.
A conversation, though, that transitions into negatively addressing events that should be long forgiven, this crosses into gossiping. Although it, too, simply may seem to be reminiscing, it also has conflict behind it. The absent friend isn’t there to share her side of the story, nor is she able to defend herself against what is being claimed. This is no longer just going down memory lane. The motive behind the second portion of the conversation is what clearly draws the line.
If the historical events weren’t brought into it, let’s remove that part of the conversation and instead imagine you transitioned from the initial update into complaining about your friend's life, how she has chosen to live it. It might have been easier to see the gossip starting. But because it was wiggled into memory lane, it may not be as obvious. These are times we just need to be ready for if we fall into sin. We have the blessing of grace and we can repent of such things.
What we need to do, is work diligently so we are able to find the righteous balance in these situations. If we use these examples that I have given as foundations for helping us analyze how we speak with and about others, we will prayerfully see a change in our conversations.
My hope is that this has helped you in identifying issues in how you speak, how to improve your conversations, ways you might find yourself getting stuck in gossiping situations, and given ideas on how to get yourself out. I pray we each remember that we want to be witnesses of Yeshua in our lives – and that we want those we come in contact with to see the fruits of the Spirit exemplified in us.
Will we be perfect? No – but we certainly can be working on being better.
Blessings and shalom.
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Lead Author (Bio)
Jim, (Judi's husband), has Sephardi Jewish ancestry and is a minister and head of Shofar Productions. Jim was a denominational pastor, hospital chaplain, and former director of a non-profit community organization.
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