Why We Need to Stop Tearing One Another Down with Our Words

By Chip Ingram

Has anyone ever criticized you or wrongly accused you of something? Maybe behind your back?

How did it make you feel? What happened to the relationship?

Few things have the power to ruin a relationship like critical, inaccurate, hostile or even slanderous words. 

The scriptures commands us to stop tearing one another down by our “slanderous” speech.


Brothers and sisters, do not slander one another. Anyone who speaks against a brother or sister or judges them speaks against the law and judges it. When you judge the law, you are not keeping it, but sitting in judgment on it.There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and destroy. But you — who are you to judge your neighbor?(James 4:11-12, NIV)

What is slanderous speech?

To slander means to say something untrue. But the original verb James uses in this scripture passage goes further and also implies a tone of speech that tears a person down.

How do we practice slanderous speech? I think of it in three degrees.

“First-degree slander”:This is unconscious – and common – criticism. “Boy, that worship music was loud, wasn’t it?” “Someone should tell Ethel that dress doesn’t work for her figure.”

“Second-degree slander”:This often occurs in the form of prayer requests and sharing information under the guise of wanting to help someone. But it’s really just gossip — which is passing along information that youhaven’t verified in a situation in which you aren’t a participant or solution.

“Third-degree slander”: This is when you act like you’re asking for help with a relationship. But actually, you’re just framing the problem from your perspective so you’ll look good and the other person will look bad.

James says stop it.

Here’s one big reason Christians get caught in the “web” of speaking against others. We buy the lie thatif only the other person would shape up, my life would improve.

“The problem is my wife; it’s not me.”

“The problem is my boss; it’s not me.”

“The problem is the church; it’s not me.”

Does this sound familiar? When I find myself doing this, it’s often to cast blame and avoid responsibility. Or it’s to justify my behavior. Or I’m afraid I’m going to be rejected andthe best defense is an offense so you put down the person first. It’s to mask my insecurity. (And we’re ALL insecure!) And thenthere’s the effort to get people on my side and look good, in case there’s conflict.

Again, James says stop it.


Tearing others down by our speech and judgmental attitudes is one of the most serious sins mentioned in Scripture.Why?

Because it demonstrates total disregard and contempt for God’s highest command: to love one another(Leviticus 19:18, James 2:8). And because it reveals that we are in fact “playing God.”

We need to break that habit! Here’s how:

  • Step 1: Develop convictions about speaking against others. (Matthew 7:1-2 and Matthew 12:36-37)
  • Step 2: Ponder the consequences of your speech. (John 13:34-35)
  • Step 3: Refuse to buy the lie! (Romans 2:3)
  • Step 4: Refuse to let others gossip.
  • Step 5: Talk less !

Lastly, ask yourself this question: Is there anyone you’ve gossiped against that you need to apologize to?

For more information on this topic, take a look at Chip’s series Five Lies that Ruin Relationships, How to Change for the Better, as well as Overcoming Emotions that Destroy.

Written By

Chip Ingram

Founder & Teaching Pastor, Living on the Edge

Chip Ingram is the CEO and teaching pastor of Living on the Edge, an international teaching and discipleship ministry. A pastor for over thirty years, Chip has a unique ability to communicate truth and challenge people to live out their faith. He is the author of many books, including The Real God, Culture Shock and The Real Heaven. Chip and his wife, Theresa, have four grown children and twelve grandchildren and live in California.

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