The Eighth Commandment: You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
Though you may feel like you don’t fall to this commandment, you have to understand the essence in order to evaluate your actions. The values here for the believer are honesty and trustworthiness as well as respecting the good name, dignity, and reputation of others. Actions which violate these values are lying, which is telling an outright untruth, or being deceptive by not telling the whole truth. Actions which more commonly violate these values include gossip and detraction.
Gossip occurs when we repeat speculative and uncomplimentary comments about others that are just “hearsay” or outright untruths. This is usually done to influence others not to think highly of someone else. Such remarks frequently originate from anger, jealousy, envy, or passing judgment about someone based on a first impression, observed appearance, or behavior.
Detraction commonly occurs through gossip in that it is repeating information about others which is true, but that others have no right or need to know. Gossip usually comes to us in casual conversations with friends or associates. But though casual, it can destroy a person’s reputation or good name by broadcasting another’s private faults or failures without sufficient reason. It’s usually a means for a person with low self-esteem to make himself or herself feel better by calling attention to the faults and failures of others.
Gossip is destructive for the believer because it can cause rash judgments to be passed about others or cause them to be labeled in an unflattering manner. It contributes to “killing” our relationships with others, and effectively “killing” the reputation of others. The spirit of evil is almost always “tricky” and subtle in its influence and activity. The devil even used scripture quoted out-of-context to tempt Jesus!
We can only triumph over gossip and detraction by praying for the gift of vigilance. If we realize afterwards that we’ve fallen prey to its clutches, we can certainly be repentant and rest in God’s great love and forgiveness! ■