WHAT IS BACKBITING?

by Jacob Ninan

Backbiting is to speak against someone behind his back with an evil heart. We don't like somebody because he has done wrong to us or not done what we wanted, we are jealous of him, etc. Or we want to pull him down in the eyes of others so that we can get ahead. So we talk about him to some others behind his back and tarnish his image and bring down his reputation. That is backbiting and slander. This is an evil and wickedness in the sight of God (Ro.1:30;2Co.12:20).

What is evil about it is the evil heart behind the words. It is no excuse to say that what we said is the truth. We would not have said those words if we had loved him. In that case we would have cared for his reputation as much as for our own reputation. But there is an evil intention behind those words.

It is possible that we do not recognise the evil in our heart when we speak against the others. That is only because our conscience is very insensitive. Perhaps it has never become sensitive at all, or perhaps in the agitated state of our mind we have ignored our conscience. Whether we are aware of what we are doing or not, what we are doing is evil. If we keep ignoring the voice of conscience as we keep backbiting, we will never get a sensitive conscience. There are sins such as wrong attitudes that affect only ourselves. But backbiting is one of those sins that hurt others. If we have indulged in this, it is not enough if we ask God for forgiveness. If we are really sorry, we would do our best to set it right with the one we have spoken against and those we have spoken to. Otherwise God would have to tell us to first bring fruit that show our repentance before He can forgive us (Mt.3:8).

While this is so, there are some who are mistaken because they understand things only according to the letter. They judge those whom they hear speaking something bad of someone else, that they are backbiting. This is especially true when they hear some elder brothers warning the church about certain people. What they fail to understand is that it is for their warning and protection that these elders speak in this way. This is the same heart that fathers have when they warn their children to keep away from certain friends. Sometimes elders have to discuss some bad things certain brothers have done or some bad aspects in their character. This is the same way parents would discuss their children. It is an evil heart that marks backbiting and not whether the words concern bad things.

It becomes backbiting when brothers and sisters discuss the faults of others when they neither have any responsibility over them, nor any genuine concern for their welfare. Then it gives them some type of pleasure pointing out to one another how bad it is with others, even while trying to pass it on as if it is for prayer! The flesh likes to feel how good it is with us by pointing out what is wrong with others. We can do this even without words, by gestures, expressions on our face when talking about others, etc. God who looks at the heart sees the evil there, even if we justify ourselves by saying that we never spoke any evil. The way to stop backbiting is not by trying to be careful with our words, though that is necessary. If we become sensitive to how our heart feels towards others, we can deal with the root of the matter.

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