Gossip or Rumor? What’s the difference? Is there a difference? The Oxford Dictionary defines “gossip” as “a casual or unconstrained conversation or reports about other people, typically involving details that are not confirmed as being true.” A “rumor” is defined as “a currently circulating story or report of uncertain or doubtful truth.” So, what’s the difference? Gossip is talking about someone with other people. A rumor is spreading specific information about someone. Both have been around forever, but that doesn’t mean they are acceptable behavior for God. That’s why He gave us the Eighth Commandment which says, “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.” The Eighth Commandment requires we speak the truth and forbids misrepresenting the truth in our relations with others.
One of the biggest things that separates us from other animals is we are made in the image and likeness of God with the ability to ask questions and seek knowledge. As children of God, we are called through our Baptism to pursue the truth and share it with others. So, we are bound to a moral obligation to seek the truth. Spreading gossip or rumors, especially with the intent to harm someone, defames that person’s dignity with an unjust attack against their reputation. Gossip and rumors are called Calumny which is a doubly malicious sin because it offends both truth and justice.
What is the difference between gossip and rumors? Does it really matter? St James warned early Christians to guard against the great evil of speaking falsely and warned of its serious consequences. He wrote “The tongue is an unrighteous world among our neighbors, staining the whole body, setting on fire the cycle of nature, and set on fire by hell. For every type of beast and bird, reptile and sea creature, can be tamed…by humankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. (James 3:5-8).” Gossip and rumors leads to hurting other people. Both can lead us into sin, especially when we influence others with our negative thoughts to sin.
As disciples of Christ, we are called to seek the truth and allow it to govern our lives through His grace. That means we are obliged to speak honestly to honor the good names of others to uphold their dignity and protect our own dignity. Truth is sacred, and Christ, who is the truth, expects us to testify to Him everyday by the truthfulness of our lives, our actions, and our words.
Adapted from “Introduction to Catholicism” by Father James Socias