Gossip is idle talk or rumor about the personal or private affairs of others. It is one of the oldest and most common means of sharing facts, views and slander. This term is used pejoratively by its reputation for the introduction of errors and variations into the information transmitted, and it also describes idle chat, a rumor of personal, or trivial nature. The term is sometimes used to specifically refer to the spreading of dirt and misinformation, as (for example) through excited discussion of scandals. Some newspapers carry "gossip columns" which detail the social and personal lives of celebrities or of élite members of certain communities.
Gossip is inherently a "false witness" of slander. Gossip and slander orbit around each other. Slander is the lie, and gossip the spreading of lies. Attractive gossip will not always be completely incorrect--it may well have some bearing on the truth. But it will always have a perverted "twist" to it that is the lure. In some situations, the gossip will be repeating some slander someone else told as a speculation that has no basis in truth. But in most cases, the appeal of the sin of gossip is that we know it is not true.
Main article: Lashon hara
Judaism considers gossip spoken without a constructive purpose (known in Hebrew as an evil tongue, lashon hara) as a sin. Speaking negatively about people, even if retelling true facts, counts as sinful, as it demeans the dignity of man — both the speaker and the subject of the gossip. According to Proverbs 18:8: "The words of a gossip are like choice morsels: they go down to a man's innermost parts."
Islam considers backbiting the equivalent of eating the flesh of one's dead brother. According to Muslims, backbiting harms its victims without offering them any chance of defense, just as dead people cannot defend against their flesh being eaten. Muslims are expected to treat each other like brothers, deriving from Islam's concept of brotherhood amongst its believers.
The Epistle to the Romans associates gossips ("backbiters") with a list of sins including sexual immorality and with murder:
28: And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient;
29: Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers,
30: Backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents,
31: Without understanding, covenantbreakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful:
32: Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them. (Romans 1:28-32)
Leviticus 19:16 (NIV) "Do not go about spreading slander among your people. Do not do anything that endangers your neighbor's life. I am the Lord."
Exodus 23:1 (NIV) "Do not spread false reports. Do not help a wicked man by being a malicious witness."
Proverbs 18:8 (NIV) The words of a gossip are like choice morsels; they go down to a man's inmost parts.
Scripture describes a gossip as one who connives and dreams up a "twist" that is compelling and winsome. There is a perverted sweetness to this deception that is the principal lure of committing this sin. "Yeah, THAT is it! So and so is doing such and such." The more divorced from the truth this is, the more outlandish the slander, the better...
Matthew 15:19 (NIV) "For out of the heart come evil thoughts... false testimony, slander. These are what make a man 'unclean'...."
Proverbs 18:8 (NAS) The words of a talebearer are like tasty trifles....
Like all sin, slander and gossip can be fun in the moment. But like all sin, there is a price to be paid later. The price here is in defamation of character to the real-life people and organizations, and in self-delusion and inability to discern the truth for those who continue in it.
1 Peter 2:1 (NIV) Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind.
Ephesians 4:31 (NIV) Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander...
How Can You Avoid Gossip?
Consider these simple steps to be sure you are not involved in gossip:
Do not associate yourself with one who is a known gossip
When someone starts to gossip — change the subject
If you are not part of the problem or part of the solution, stay out of it
If you have fallen into the bad habit of gossiping — ask God to change your heart
When you have been the victim of gossip — confront the parties that spread the rumor.