I remember going into work about 10 or 11 years ago, and being approached by the boss' wife. "Are you and your husband getting a divorce?" The question came out of the blue. He and I weren't having any problems whatsoever. So, I answered her honestly (no, we're doing great)... and asked where the question came from. She explained that someone had told her my husband kicked me out of the house and I was living in a motel. It was several hours later before I figured out who said it and where she got the information...
The weekend before, I was stressed beyond belief and driving my husband nuts. So, he gave me some money and told me to go uptown for a while. Upon arriving at the bar, I told some of my friends "I was driving my husband nuts, so he gave me 10 bucks and told me to get out." I knew what I meant. My friends knew what I meant. The old lady sitting behind me, however? She decided to run with the story, and fill in the blanks on her own.
4 or 5 years ago, I was volunteering at the school for a fundraiser. I was walking near my son and one of his classmates, when I suddenly heard an old lady quite loudly tell her friend (while pointing directly at me) "She used to be a stripper!" I was floored. First, I've never been a stripper (maybe I should have been - they make good money), and second, I still don't have a clue where that one came from.
What's the Difference?
There are some people who consistently feel the need to take little snippets that they've heard, and fill in any blanks with their own creativity, and spread this around to other people. They hang on every juicy tidbit other people feed them, embellish the stories a little, and eagerly share their story with the first person who'll listen. This kind of gossip is annoying, and hurtful, but it's usually fueled by a simple desire to talk... to say something "exciting"... to relieve boredom.
But worse (in my opinion) are those who feel the need to make up their own crap with the intention of hurting other people. The woman who was telling people I was a stripper - the only intention behind her words was to slander my name - to ruin my reputation. She told lies with the express purpose of making me look like a bad person (as if I don't do that well enough on my own).
And these are the kind of people I need a lot of patience from God to deal with. These are the people who will smear the name of a good person, just because they don't like her. These are the people who set out to ruin a man's reputation, job, marriage, or all the above, just because they don't agree with him. These are the people who intentionally seek to destroy good people just because they can, or because they don't care for the person, or because they're simply heartless fools.
What's the Bible Say about it all?
There are actually many verses which speak to the evil of slander, both in the OT and NT. But, my personal favorite is this one...
1 O LORD, who shall sojourn in your tent?
Who shall dwell on your holy hill?
2 He who walks blamelessly and does what is right
and speaks truth in his heart;
3 who does not slander with his tongue
and does no evil to his neighbor,
nor takes up a reproach against his friend;
4 in whose eyes a vile person is despised,
but who honors those who fear the LORD;
who swears to his own hurt and does not change;
5 who does not put out his money at interest
and does not take a bribe against the innocent.
He who does these things shall never be moved.
And, of course, there is Matthew 15:18-19...
18 But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person. 19 For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander.
And then there's... well, look them up. Just do a search for "Bible verses about slander."
And then... stop slandering. Or, if you're not one to slander, at least stop listening to those who are this way. They can't slander someone if they don't have an audience.
May every word that leaves our lips be brought forth with the intent to lift up, comfort, love and support one another.