Think Before You Speak


by Cherie Werner

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.  Ephesians 4:29

 One of the greatest jobs I have as a mother is to instill godly character into my children. To do this, I intentionally utilize both resources and teachable moments. I have found that it is best to learn from life’s blunders.  Currently I am reading aloud and discussing the book Love As A Way of Life by Gary Chapman with my youngest daughter, Cayley, as well as the mom group I’m leading.  At the end of one of the chapters, I became convicted. There was a challenge to evaluate verbal interactions with others and determine whether or not the words spoken were kind. If any unwholesome words came to mind, the challenge encouraged you to take action and apologize.

My heart sunk as I remembered a phone conversation that I had with a friend. I sent the apology email below to my friend and then read it aloud to my daughter. Even though I was embarrassed by my blunder, I wanted to use it as a teachable moment. Words do matter and carry weight.

OK my dear friend, things just got real.  I just finished reading a chapter on kindness to Cayley and I was convicted.

I read, “To make kindness a habit, ask yourself after each verbal interaction with another person, what kind words did I say and what unwholesome words did I say?” I thought back to our conversation and was convicted.

 I realized that sharing with you about my disgruntles with ________ were not edifying or life giving.  I did looked up the quote you mentioned by Dave Ramsey concerning gossip which said, “gossip is defined as discussing anything negative with someone who can’t help solve the problem.”  So I’m apologizing for gossiping.

Words are powerful as they give life or death.  I desire to be known as one who spreads life. 

Love ya.

My friend wrote me back the following:

Your email made me think, what if the words about _______ were said in a happy, surprised, and excited tone, but because it was hearsay, and because of our filters, we assume it was negative?  It gave me a lot to think about.  The other thing that I want to sort through with you is where is the line between gossip and sharing our heart, and frustration with a friend.

Was I gossiping or simply sharing my heart and frustration with a friend? I wanted to know. Actually, I needed to know.

Two definitions of gossip:

  1. Dictionary – Casual or unconstrained conversation or reports about other people, typically involving details that are not confirmed as being true.
  2. Bible – One who reveals secrets, one who goes about as a talebearer or scandal-monger.

Gossip is different from sharing information in many ways. Below are some ways I feel the two differ but I’m sure there are many others.

  • Consider your motives for sharing? Are you seeking to build yourself up by making others look bad? We often feel superior to the person we are talking about which is prideful and often gossip.
  • Gossiping wants to share and tell a story for reactions. It is done repeatedly to many persons.
  • If you are hurt or angry with someone and desire to draw others into your pain wanting them to side with you it’s likely you are gossiping.
  • What type of information is being shared? Gossipers speak of the faults and failures of others or reveal possibly embarrassing or shameful details regarding the lives of others without their knowledge or approval.
  • Gossip usually occurs when you complain or talk about one person to someone who knows both of you.
  • Ask if what you are saying is helpful for building up the person I am speaking about by sharing this? Charles Spurgeon said, “Tale bearing/gossip emits a threefold poison. It injures the teller, the hearer, and the person concerning whom the tale is told.”
  • Ask yourself why you want to share this information, do you have permission, and if it’s necessary? Then consider whether you would share if the person you were talking about were present? If not, you are most likely gossiping.
  • It’s gossip to say anything about someone that will lower the listener’s opinion of that someone as gossip changes the way we see people.
  • Do you have a complaint about someone that you take to someone else who can do nothing about it? If so, then that is gossip.
  • Do your words build up and edify others? Gossipers seek to tear down others.
  • Kind words see the best in people and call it forth. Gossipers tend to focus on the negative and nit pick.
  • When someone is talking negatively about others it become gossip on your part if you jump into the conversation.
    • Don’t participate. Excuse yourself from a conversation that becomes full of gossip, to avoid “falling into” gossip games or socializing-by-demoralizing.
    • Encourage them to speak directly to the person who is involved as it’s biblical, see Matthew 18:15
    • Let gossip end with you. Help navigate the conversation to whatever is true, pure, and lovely.
  • Always remember your words are powerful enough to give life or death.
  • Will what you share glorify God?

With this particular situation, I decided that my friend might be right as I truly was sharing my heart. Nevertheless, I realize that it is a fine line. Next time, before talking to a friend about something, I will ask myself if what I am about to say is true, kind, necessary, or helpful? This whole experience has reminded me that it is important to THINK before speaking. “He who guards his mouth keeps her life, but she who opens wise her lips comes to ruin.”  Proverbs 13:3

T –is it true?
H –is it helpful?
I  –is it inspiring?
N –is it necessary?
K –is it kind?

In closing, I encourage you to ponder the following poem by Ann Landers. Personally, this poem really made me think deeper about a few things.

Remember Me?
“My Name Is Gossip. I have no respect for Justice.
I maim without killing. I break hearts and ruin lives.
I am cunning and malicious and gather strength with age.
The more I am quoted the more I am believed.
I flourish at every level of society.
My victims are helpless. They cannot protect themselves against me because I have no name and no face.
To track me down is impossible. The harder you try, the more elusive I become.
I am nobody’s friend.
Once I tarnish a reputation, it is never quite the same.
I topple governments and ruin marriages.
I ruin careers and cause sleepless nights, heartache and indigestion.
I spawn suspicion and generate grief.
I make innocent people cry in their pillows.
Even my name hisses. “I AM CALLED GOSSIP.” Office gossip. Shop gossip. Party gossip.
I make headline and headaches.
Before you repeat a story ask yourself. Is it true? Is it fair? Is it necessary?
If not – KEEP QUIET.

GREAT minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; shallow minds discuss people. Eleanor Roosevelt       

Which are you?

How do you differentiate between gossiping and sharing?  I’d really like to know. 

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  1. Janet says

    Well I believe it all boils down to our hearts and the issues that lie there. I have reached out to a friend and she I as we shared thoughts and anger at times about another but for me there is where it ended. I did not move on to tell others. I think it is okay to vent with a trusted friend. I do not believe holding it inside is healthy and it is good to have a person to bounce things off of and lead us back to Jesus when we can’t do it ourselves.

    • says

      Janet I agree that it it’s a heart issue. When I started this post I struggled as I felt I just needed to share with someone but I realized that I could have gone to Jesus first thus lessening my need to vent with a friend.

      I believe this will look different for each of us but it’s important that we are proactive verses reactive in the moment.

      T –is it true?
      H –is it helpful?
      I –is it inspiring?
      N –is it necessary?
      K –is it kind?

      Thanks for sharing as I value your insight. Blessings.

      • DEB MCCREEDY says

        Hi Cherie,

        Really appreciated your blog on gossip. This is sooooo pervasive in our culture, within the church and outside the church. God has cautioned my heart over the years before I speak . Often even when something is true, it does not need to be said.

        I read somewhere that if you are being gossiped to by someone you should ask, “Do you mind if I quote you?” . (smile) That may or may not be appropriate. I do think that if there is any check from the Holy Spirit it is best not to say anything.

  2. says

    Hey, I just love you Cheri. One of my boys came to me the other day and started saying things about his brother and I just said, “how about you stop talking about your brother and go pray for him.” I’ve noticed in my own life, I don’t need a friend to vent to, Jesus is my only sounding board that bounces truth back to me when it concerns relationships and other people. Thanks for your always so practical post, I’m so thankful for you and your investment in us.

    • says

      Wow! What great advice and how blessed your boys are to have a mom who directs them to Jesus. I believe our culture has normalized gossiping and the need to vent among friends. I believe churches, ministries, and the body is hurting because we often cross the line. Sadly I too have crossed the line but I desire to be a life giver with my words. I am so thankful for you. Blessings

  3. Beth says

    Some great reminders to be careful with our words! I think it’s significant that the Bible has a lot to say about slander, which is tearing down out of pure spite. Unfortunately in our day, “gossip” has come to have so many broad definitions that the “No Gossip” rule is a favorite one of cults and even supposedly Christian groups that try to silence the Biblical discernment and legitimate problems that members see in the group. I’ve watched this happen in a “ministry” that I used to be apart of. “T-h-I-N-K” is a great acronym for most of our speech, especially in our families, but we must never be afraid to face the truth. There are times that the truth must be spoken in love about sin and bad situations, even though some may call accuse us of being negative, bitter, spreading gossip, etc. “No Gossip” should never include covering up sin. Just my 2 cents :)

    • says

      Beth correct we should not cover up sin. I believe that if someone has done something wrong instead of telling others we should first go to Jesus which sadly was not always my first go to as I would usually run to a friend. Then we need to consider Matthew 18:15-17. Have I gone to the person that I feel hurt by or frustrated with?

      I really like what Dave Ramsey said, ” Gossip is defined as discussing anything negative with someone who can’t help solve the problem.” Often times we tend to vent to a friend who is unable to help. Just recently I was frustrated over a situation and went to my husband. He listened, hugged me, but couldn’t change the situation. Later I called the person who could actually do something about my hurt only to realize it was a BIG misunderstanding and over sight on her part. I should have called her first to clear things up. Oh my the time and energy I wasted.

      I so appreciate you sharing as this is an area that I think we need to talk about gossip pushes people apart instead of pulling them together, and everyone knows you can’t trust a gossip.


    • says

      Amy Marie,

      Trust me this post was what God used to further convict me in regards to this issue. My hope is that as believers we would all think before we speak as our words are so powerful.


  4. says

    I have recently been on the receiving end of this, where an issue came up with someone from church. I tried to follow Matthew 18, to go to that person privately. I kept the issue between me and her, and my husband. I shared my other thoughts with the Lord. No other person needed to be brought into this.
    On the other hand, I have a feeling that she talked to other women in the church who know me. Sure, she shared her disgruntled thoughts, “her heart” so to speak, with friends. But it affects the way they look at me, since they only heard her side.
    I heard from an older woman that we gossip can also be sharing details that are not necessary, for example, why and how a young man we know died.
    I think we would all be wise to realize that most of what we say, even when we’re sharing our heart, is really not necessary. Leave it in prayer. Keep a tight rein on our tongues. That’s what I’m learning. :)

    • says


      Great insight and thanks for sharing.

      I too have experienced the same situation as I am sure many of us have. It stinks to try and handle situations privately and directly only to feel as if others have been pulled into it without hearing both sides. If others look at us differently because of what someone shared it shows immaturity on their part. I have grown as a result of past hurts and I hope that I will continue to mature in Christ likeness.

      It really does help to ask if what you are saying is helpful for building up the person I am speaking about by sharing this?

      I love what Charles Spurgeon said, “Tale bearing/gossip emits a threefold poison. It injures the teller, the hearer, and the person concerning whom the tale is told.”

      There is so much to consider and I appreciate your willingness to share some thoughts.


  5. Amber says

    I find I get stuck listening to a lot of gossip from certain individuals. I tend to be quiet and a good listener, which leads some people to vent to me. I’ve tried changing the subject, and I’ve tried to encourage the gossiper to reframe what they are talking about in a more general way or in a more positive light, but it seldom works. I’m not sure what to do other than to avoid them as much as possible! I also always remind myself to keep a close watch on what I say to known gossipers, because if they are willing to share everything everyone else is doing with me, then they’ll be doing the same thing about me to everyone else. Thanks for this post.

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