Recently, a very good friend of mine was accused of saying something that simply is not true. They were accused of refusing to help Person A out because of how Person B felt about person A. That did not happen, but it didn't stop Person A from telling a whole bunch of people about it.
I have known my friend and Person B for a number of years. I know exactly what happened in this situation. I know the truth. I don't know if my friend or Person B knows the extent Person A went in this, but they scattered it pretty far and wide.
Now it doesn't matter what the truth is, because my friend has had undue harm done to their reputation. Had Person A simply gone to my friend and asked about it, the air would have been cleared. Had Person A followed what Jesus said in Matthew 18:15-17 instead of gossiping, people wouldn't be thinking my friend said something harsh and untrue.
I read story once that went something like this:
A woman who had been gossiping about a friend came to ask for forgiveness. The friend said that she would forgive her, but she needed her to do something to help. She asked her to go and collect a bag of feathers and then come back to see her. She gave her a puzzled look but shrugged it off and went off to collect the feathers
The next day she returned with the bag. Her friend asked her to go out and place a feather on a different street corner until the bag was empty. She again went out and did what her friend asked. When she was done several days later, she returned to see her friend once more. Her friend thanked her for her efforts, then asked her to go and collect all the feathers into the bag and bring them back. She told her friend that it would be impossible since by now all of the feathers had blown away and could not be recovered.
Her friend then said that the same thing happens when we gossip. We might be able to ask for forgiveness, but the consequences and damages often spread farther than we’d imagined.
Think before you speak ill of another. Go to that person first and try and settle it between the two of you. If that doesn't work, try again with an impartial person. But don't go to someone else and spread lies.
16 These six things the LORD hates,
Yes, seven are an abomination to Him:
17 A proud look,
A lying tongue,
Hands that shed innocent blood,
18 A heart that devises wicked plans,
Feet that are swift in running to evil,
19 A false witness who speaks lies,
And one who sows discord among brethren. (Proverbs 6:16-19, New King James Version)