What constitutes "Talebearing"

Ben Zartman

Puritan Board Sophomore
Given the several strong admonitions against talebearing in the OT, I'm looking for resources on what talebearing exactly is. I'm discussing this with someone who says that talebearing is only telling things that are untrue.
My understanding was that talebearing was telling someone something about a third party that wasn't your business to tell: essentially "tattling."
For instance: Person 'A' tells person 'T' he conversed with persons 'B' and 'C'. Person 'T' goes to 'B' and 'C' and asks for verification. Then person 'T' returns to 'A' and says "B and C said this about your conversation which confirms/denies what you said."
Has 'T' become a talebearer? T's actions are separating A from B and C (Proverbs says that will happen), and sowing suspicion and discord between them--surely A will never confide in either B, C, or T again. Is it talebearing in the Biblical sense to take a story from one, repeat it to others, then return to the first and tell what the others said about the first story?
I believe so, but would like some clarity on it from other sources.
 

Taylor Sexton

Puritan Board Senior
HALOT seems to restrict the term רכיל to gossip and, in particular, slander. I’m not sure the situation you gave constitutes some kind of moral failure to the degree of slander, if a moral failure at all.
 

Pergamum

Ordinary Guy (TM)
I had several people spread news of my illness and inability to even speak publicly far and wide until a church dropped me from support. They spread my news abroad to my hurt and I have yet to recover from the damage. Their talebearing took away my agency from controlling my own narrative and I've had to answer questions about why I puked after speaking and why I can't get my life together it seems, even though I am doing much better now. Even the reporting of true events can be tale-bearing if it is done in a way that tears down another's reputation. Old Perg is lifting heavy weights but he cannot even get up before noon and puked the last time he spoke...he really needs to hang up his hat and settle down to a normal life, what is he thinking! He must be infected with pride.
 

RPEphesian

Puritan Board Junior
Just start by saying, “Brother, I would never otherwise tell you, but I really wanted you to pray.”

Let the original cast tell the story. When in doubt, always do this.

Even if delivered facts are true...

Facts should never be interpreted apart from the whole context. That can be highly complex, and storyteller likely does not have it.

Facts always carry the tincture (approval, disapproval) of the storyteller. That will pass on to the listener more effectively than the facts.

Even Christian people have a more ready ear to hear about wrongdoing, and ready mind to suspect it. It’s easy to suspect evil, hard to spin charity into something.

The person you are speaking to might be quite poorly qualified to judge or assess the situation, even if you did have the facts.

People will naturally start trying to figure out the whole story from what you tell, and generally spin out a negative narrative of the events.

Just let people keep their business private.
 
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Jack K

Puritan Board Professor
I have very little expertise in Hebrew and no knowledge of that particular word, but words in any language are seldom limited to a single, precise meaning. When it comes to practical application of these passages, narrowly defining the word is probably less helpful than looking at what all of Scripture has to say about how we should give reports about others.

When we do that, "Speak the truth in love" is a pretty good summary. It gives us two important and challenging hurdles to clear before we go talking about our neighbor.
 

py3ak

Unshaven and anonymous
Staff member
talebearing is only telling things that are untrue
Proverbs 11:13 doesn't make much sense from that point of view. Are all secrets untrue?
But lest all conversations be reduced to baseball, reporting news of others is not necessarily talebearing: "know ye that our brother Timothy is set at liberty," for instance, was a legitimate thing to share.
 

VictorBravo

Administrator
Staff member
Proverbs 11:13 doesn't make much sense from that point of view. Are all secrets untrue?
But lest all conversations be reduced to baseball, reporting news of others is not necessarily talebearing: "know ye that our brother Timothy is set at liberty," for instance, was a legitimate thing to share.
True. But even in reporting something thought of as news, harm can follow.

True example in a court affidavit: "I heard that the mother's former partner said she molested her child repeatedly."

It may be true the declarant heard that, but watch the fireworks and disrupted lives ensue.

After months of CPS investigations and court hearings, turns out the former partner said such things about other former partners, too.
 

py3ak

Unshaven and anonymous
Staff member
True. But even in reporting something thought of as news, harm can follow.

True example in a court affidavit: "I heard that the mother's former partner said she molested her child repeatedly."

It may be true the declarant heard that, but watch the fireworks and disrupted lives ensue.

After months of CPS investigations and court hearings, turns out the former partner said such things about other former partners, too.
Yes, it's often a delicate question whether telling a specific fact is legitimate and helpful or not. Excessive reserve causes harm, but so does being a chattering jackdaw.
 

Ben Zartman

Puritan Board Sophomore
Thank you all for the comments; perhaps talebearing has more to do with the intentions of the talebearer's heart--but we cannot judge hearts. We can only judge the actions that proceed from them.
In this scenario, it was not a situation of "Timothy's doing well," but "You said Timothy's doing well, but Jane and Barb said Timothy's doing poorly, so clearly you're lying. In the mouth of two witnesses!" I'm still trying to sort out the pieces.
The parties of A, B, C, and T were not me, by the way.
 

iainduguid

Puritan Board Sophomore
Thank you all for the comments; perhaps talebearing has more to do with the intentions of the talebearer's heart--but we cannot judge hearts. We can only judge the actions that proceed from them.
In this scenario, it was not a situation of "Timothy's doing well," but "You said Timothy's doing well, but Jane and Barb said Timothy's doing poorly, so clearly you're lying. In the mouth of two witnesses!" I'm still trying to sort out the pieces.
The parties of A, B, C, and T were not me, by the way.
Surely there are many other scenarios for "Timothy's doing well," but "You said Timothy's doing well, but Jane and Barb said Timothy's doing poorly" that don't involve, "so clearly you're lying. In the mouth of two witnesses!" Perhaps Timothy was doing well but had a sudden relapse. Perhaps Timothy doesn't know you as well as he knows Jane and Barb and so didn't want to engage you on the topic. Perhaps he was in a hurry when he met you....and so on. Is that perhaps part of the problem? Or is there history that leads someone to feel that lying is the obvious explanation? Is this really a scenario about talebearing or is it more complex?
 

Ben Zartman

Puritan Board Sophomore
Surely there are many other scenarios for "Timothy's doing well," but "You said Timothy's doing well, but Jane and Barb said Timothy's doing poorly" that don't involve, "so clearly you're lying. In the mouth of two witnesses!" Perhaps Timothy was doing well but had a sudden relapse. Perhaps Timothy doesn't know you as well as he knows Jane and Barb and so didn't want to engage you on the topic. Perhaps he was in a hurry when he met you....and so on. Is that perhaps part of the problem? Or is there history that leads someone to feel that lying is the obvious explanation? Is this really a scenario about talebearing or is it more complex?
As with all scenarios, there are complexities: Matthew 18 seems clear until situations full of nuance are thrown in. I believe there is pride and vainglory in person "T" that led to forming a false, preconceived notion of Timothy's state, and going about talebearing to confirm it. It's gritty and shameful; my only portion in it is in trying to sort out whether it's a case of talebearing, which is why I asked: what precisely does the passage "you shall not go up and down as a talebearer among my people" mean?
What is it that God would consider "going up and down as a talebearer?"
I do appreciate, though, that you saw there was more than the initial question had implied. There's always more.
Sigh.
 
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