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10 Types of Gossiping People

  • Donna Jones Crosswalk.com Contributing Writer
10 Types of Gossiping People

I’ll never forget my seeking friend’s response when she first learned gossip is a sin: utter shock. Until that day, she’d always thought gossip was simply part of normal conversation. Everyone does it. So how could it be wrong?

We were studying the chapter called “Why Are There Jerks in the World, and Could I Be One of Them?” in my book Seek: A Woman’s Guide to Meeting God. Her surprise at how serious God views gossip served as a giant wake up call to me—a girl whose known gossip was wrong since childhood, but had somehow forgotten the gravity of gossip somewhere along the way. 

Biblically, a gossip is defined as “a tale-bearer, a whisperer, a secret slanderer.” Anytime we say anything about someone privately that we wouldn’t say publicly, it’s gossip.

Gossip isn’t always as easy to spot as one might think. Read on to learn the top 10 types of gossip.

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1. The "I Just Need to Vent" Gossip

1. The "I Just Need to Vent" Gossip

Who among us hasn’t felt the need to vent frustration, hurt, or anger? Who hasn’t wanted to get something off their chest—even if that “something” painted someone else in a negative light? Is this wrong? Isn’t it okay to vent every now and then? Necessary, even?

It depends on whom you vent to, and how you vent.

David wrote, “I cry aloud to the Lord; I lift up my voice to the Lord for mercy. I pour out before him my complaint; before him I tell my trouble.” (Psalm 142:1-2) The need to get something off our chest while avoiding slander and gossip can be accomplished by pouring out our complaints to God, before we pour out our complaints to people. If we do vent to people, let’s be sure we don’t taint another person’s reputation in a way that can’t be recovered. 

When my husband first became a pastor, he quickly learned frustration, disappointment, and hurt sometimes came with the territory. At the end of a grueling day, he’d give me enough details to empathize, but never reveal names. At first I pressed to know, claiming I couldn’t really understand without every gritty detail. But he didn’t budge: he’d talk about problems, not people. Finally, he told me why: “I’ll eventually work out issues with people and move on, but if you know who they are, you’re perception of them will forever be tainted.”

My husband taught me the delicate balance of venting, without becoming a gossip. There are other ways to do this, I’m sure. But the bottom line is this: be aware of the fine line between venting emotions and tarnishing reputations.

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2. The "I Need to Get a Life" Gossip

2. The "I Need to Get a Life" Gossip

The “I need to get a life” gossip is driven by boredom or emptiness. People whose lives lack meaningful work or transcendent purpose, often seek to find significance by discussing the lives of others. This type of gossip may think, my life’s uneventful, so let’s talk about someone else’s life. And that can easily lead to gossip. 

Boredom-driven gossip is nothing new. The Apostle Paul warned Timothy, pastor of the church at Ephesus, not to put young women on the widows list, because “if they are on the list, they may learn to be lazy and will spend their time gossiping from house to house, meddling in other people’s business and talking about things they shouldn’t.” (1 Timothy 5:13

In other words, people without anything to do will eventually start talking about you.

Of course, talking about other people’s lives isn’t always negative, nor is it always gossip; but it can be the gateway to meddling and gossip. 

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3. The "In the Know" Gossip

3. The "In the Know" Gossip

An “in the know” gossip loves to have the latest scoop. In fact, they need to know the latest scoop, because inside information makes this person feel significant, included, and sometimes, even superior. Since they derive personal value from being in the know, they aren’t content to simply know the private information of others; they are driven to let other people know they know. Which means they gossip. 

An “in the know” gossip frequently starts sentences with “Have you heard…? Or “Did you know…? And while “in the know” gossips have been around forever, social media has driven “in the know” gossip to new heights. 

So, what’s so bad about “in the know” gossip?

Proverbs 11:13 says, “A gossip goes around telling secrets, but those who are trustworthy can keep a confidence.” The one thing we can know for sure about an “in the know” gossip, is that they are not trustworthy. 

What if you realize you’ve been guilty of being an “in the know” gossip? What then? 

Before you share personal information about someone, pause long enough to ask yourself, “Do I really need to share this information? Why?” You may find your desire to share private information about someone else reveals more about you than it does the other person.

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4. The Prayer Request Gossip

4. The Prayer Request Gossip

Anyone who’s been around religious people has likely encountered this type of gossip. What makes the prayer request gossip so insidious is that gossip is couched in spiritual sounding words like, “we all need to pray for him.”

God isn’t fooled by our attempts at dressing up gossip in religious jargon. Some things are not ours to share—even in the form of prayers.

How can you prevent yourself and others from prayer request gossip? 

First, share personal requests. In my 20-plus years of ministry, I’ve noticed that people share prayer requests about others, more often than share requests about themselves. In many cases, this is a defensive mechanism—a way to seem vulnerable (I’ll share a prayer request), while keeping others at arm length (as long as the prayer request is not about me). 

Second, only share a non-personal prayer request if the other person has given you permission to share their need. 

A few months ago, a friend from church shared a concern with an acquaintance. The acquaintance put the concern on the church prayer chain. My friend—who is on the prayer team—received an email with churchwide prayers. There, for all to see, was her concern, written next to her name. She was speechless. Needless to say, it created a relational mess. Prayer request gossip hurts as much as any other type of gossip—maybe more. There’s nothing less Christ-like than being a prayer request gossip. Instead of sharing a prayer request you haven’t been asked to share, simply pray.

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5. The "Bless Your Heart" Gossip

5. The "Bless Your Heart" Gossip

If you aren’t from the South, this one might not make sense to you. But if you’ve ever lived anywhere south of the Mason-Dixon line, you are already nodding your head. 

The “Bless Your Heart” gossip shares juicy pieces of information, but tags on the line, “bless his/her heart” as a way of appearing compassionate and caring, when, in fact, they are neither compassionate nor caring.

It works like this: “Did you hear the Johnson girl got into trouble again? Bless her heart.” “My neighbor will sure have her hands full with another baby on the way, so close to the youngest. Bless her heart.”

“Bless Your Heart” gossip is manipulative, spiteful, and mean. Gossip never blesses anyone—even if “bless your heart” is tagged on at the end.

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6. The Bitter-Vengeful Gossip

6. The Bitter-Vengeful Gossip

While the “Bless Your Heart” gossip cloaks negative information about others in a guise of compassion, the bitter-vengeful gossip makes no attempt at hiding his or her glee at other’s misfortune. The underlying thought behind this type of gossip is “It’s about time they finally got what they deserve.”

Bitter-vengeful gossip usually stems from being hurt or harmed. Sometimes bitter-vengeful gossip is driven by jealousy. Always, bitter-vengeful gossip wishes ill on another person, and is all too happy to add to their pain by passing along any negative report to others. 

When we engage in bitter-vengeful gossip we don’t simply want vindication for wrongs done to us (real or perceived); we want vengeance. Gossip assures we get it. 

What’s wrong with bitter-vengeful gossip? According to God, a lot. Consider the words of Romans 12:17-21: “Never pay back evil with more evil. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable. Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone. Dear friends, never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger of God. For the Scriptures say, ‘I will take revenge ;I will pay them back,’ says the Lord. Instead, ’If your enemies are hungry, feed them. If they are thirsty, give them something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals of shame on their heads.’  Don’t let evil conquer you, but conquer evil by doing good.”

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7. The Truth Teller Gossip

7. The Truth Teller Gossip

The truth teller gossip doesn’t consider their words are gossip. After all, they’re just telling the truth—or at least, what they think is true. 

What’s so wrong with being a truth teller gossip? The underlying motive is the same as all other forms of gossip: lack of love and respect for another human being. Gossip tears down; love builds up. The two cannot coexist.

The effects of truth teller gossip are equally harmful: damaged reputations. Disunity. Anger. Hurt. Proverbs 16:28 says, “A troublemaker plants seeds of strife; gossip separates the best of friends.” 

Even if the gossip is true.

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8. The "Compliment Turned Critic" Gossip

8. The "Compliment Turned Critic" Gossip

This type of gossip begins with a compliment, but somewhere in the midst of the praise, a little piece of negative gossip slips in. 

It works like this: “Susan’s a super star with her clients. I can see why she got the promotion. I just hope her new job doesn’t affect her family. Her child struggles in school, you know.”

Sometimes the compliment turned critic offers gossip in response to a compliment. Like this: 

Compliment: “Jim and Molly’s new house is amazing.”

Response: “It should be. Did you hear how much they paid for it? Cost them a fortune!”

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9. The Avoider Gossip

9. The Avoider Gossip

I’d venture a guess that every church (and many families) in America has one—if not many—avoider gossips. They are hard to spot, but every bit as destructive as other times of gossips. 

An avoider gossip learns something negative about someone, but fears addressing the issue face to face. They likely think, someone needs to do something. But rather than going directly to the offending party as Matthew 18 instructs, or going to a person who can help (the parent, a pastor, law enforcement), they pass on the information in hopes the right person will somehow hear the right information, and do the right thing. 

An avoider gossip might have good intentions, but rarely do they get good results. 

Years ago, one of the associate pastors of our church became the subject of gossip. As the Lead Pastor, my husband began hearing second, third, and fourth-hand accounts of questionable behavior on the part of his associate. Not one person with firsthand knowledge ever contacted my husband. Instead, they told a friend, who told a friend, who told my husband. The reason most often cited? “I don’t want to gossip to the Pastor.” It never occurred to any of them they were gossiping to everyone but the Pastor!

By the time my husband had enough credible evidence to adequately address the issue, damage—that could have been avoided—was already done. 

Avoider gossip is based in fear, not love. It’s harmful because without firsthand knowledge, those who are in a position to intervene in dangerous or destructive situations are unable to do so in a timely manner.

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10. The Jealous Gossip

10. The Jealous Gossip

The jealous gossip is perhaps the most common gossip. Something dark in the human soul (sin!) revels in making others look bad when we feel like their life is better than ours. Sometimes jealous gossip stems from wanting to be right, or best, or number one. 

Jealous gossip worms it’s way into the workplace, into friendships, into families, and even into places of worship. 

This is why this type of gossip is listed in the behaviors of the carnal, fleshly Christian. When we gossip—no matter what the motivation or justification—we behave just like the unbelieving world. 

In Christ’s economy, jealous gossip only leaves people, families, friends, and churches, bankrupt. 

A pastor’s wife and national speaker, Donna Jones travels from coast to coast, guiding women to the wisdom they need, for the life they want. She’s the author of Seek: A Woman’s Guide to Meeting God, Raising Kids with Good Manners, and Taming Your Family Zoo, and has been a guest on numerous radio and television shows including Focus on the Family, At Home, Live! and Good Day Dallas. Donna and her husband planted Crossline Church in in Laguna Hills, CA, in 2005. She is mom to their three wildly funny young adult kids, who frequently sit on her kitchen counter, just to chat. Connect with Donna at www.donnajones.orgor on Instagram @donnaajones.

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