Home > Commentary > Dealing With Busybodies (Preaching at Self Post)

Dealing With Busybodies (Preaching at Self Post)

This is a therapeutic post. I’m sorta preaching at myself right now. Bear with me.

So, I’ve been pushed into a corner today. I was exhausted from a long day of classes without much sleep. Allowed myself to get angry, I did. Wanted to load both chambers and blast away. And I didn’t particularly care what happened to the target. What could possibly have riled me up so much? Politics? No. Religion? No. Could it have been…Kentucky fans??? Nope.

What bothered me so much today was a busybody.

What Is A Busybody?
A busybody is someone who, quite simply, sticks their nose in your business. This sort of person feels as if they need to know everything going on around them, including everyone else’s business. Usually someone with a lot of idle time, the busybody attempts to fill that time by prying into the lives of those around them.

A busybody could be a neighbor, a co-worker, a friend, a family member, or some other person who would otherwise be uninterested. If the busybody is a friend or acquaintance, they are likely a gossip looking for goodies to share with others. If a family member, they may be gossips as well, or simply trying to be the one “in control” of the family. These family members are usually someone outside of your immediate family – an aunt, uncle, brother, sister, parent, or parent-in-law. If someone else, such as a neighbor or otherwise uninterested party, likely this busybody is just someone looking to make trouble by exerting false control over the lives of others.

Busybodies are tattletales. That’s why most gossips are also busybodies. More often busybodies are the investigative reporters for the gossips, uncovering the latest dirt on you for the rumor mill. They have to tell someone about whatever it is they saw about you that they did not like. Usually their information is not complete; they did not see the entire situation or conversation they are nosing into, they may not know whatever inside knowledge may be present (inside jokes, slang, behaviors, etc.). And the busybody, quite frankly, doesn’t care. They are quite ready to act upon their incomplete knowledge by exerting the false control they perceive themselves to possess.

You could have a bad day at work, or your kids could be having a bad day and throw a fit in public, or it could even be something as mundane and silly as lingering a couple of days before mowing the yard; these are gold mines for busybodies. They are like peeping toms who sneak around and snoop in your windows.

Busybodies often make you want to punch them squarely in the nose. Often you may find yourself saying things like:

“Don’t you have more important things to do than worry about what I’m doing?”

“I don’t see how it’s any of your concern…”

“Don’t you have enough on your own plate?”

“Butt out!”

Often in my secular employment I would tell those of my employees who would “busybody” their teammates something along these lines: “Why don’t you worry about what you’re supposed to be doing, and let me worry about what they’re supposed to be doing?”

What we lack, obviously, is a God-honoring way to deal with the busybodies in our lives.

What Does Scripture Say?
Scripture says that busybodies are idle people who are neglecting their work and go around looking for negative things in the people around them, often to share with others as gossip or to share with an authority figure to make themselves look better (2 Thess. 3:11-12; 1 Tim. 5:13). Busybodies, whether unknowingly or by character, show themselves to be evil-hearted people (Romans 1:28-31). Quite frankly, to be a busybody is to be in sin.

How do we deal with those who are in sin?

Pray
First, we must pray for the busybody above all else. Looking first to prayer directly combats the desire in us to respond in a less than loving way. When your first impulse is to tell them off, make some sort of appropriately snarky comment, or complain to your boss; take a full two minutes to pray. Pray for the busybody, yourself, and the situation. Prayer forces you to calm down. It forces you to breathe. It lowers your blood pressure. It helps you to clear your thoughts. Most importantly, prayer will force you to think Jesus’ thoughts about the busybody. And when you behave like Jesus, you can respond with grace and truth. 1 Peter 2:23 especially speaks to the kind of behavior Jesus exhibited – refusing to repay evil with evil. Praying will force you to do that!

After praying, you may actually find that you have no need to give the busybody any further time and energy. This is absolutely fantastic – all you needed to do was pray!

Process
Second, process what the busybody is saying to you or to others. Have you given the busybody a legitimate reason to butt in? For example, perhaps in the past you had been careless, overlooked something, were ignorant of something, ignored something, or were simply unaware of something. The busybody may simply be harping on a past mistake in hopes you will repeat it or get angry with them, thus giving them the chance to exert their false control. Or perhaps you have continued the observed behavior without realizing it, which gave the busybody ample opportunity to glean the “dirt” they need in order to survive. In this case, thank God for the busybody drawing the item to your attention – the busybody was God’s means of pushing you towards greater sanctification. But what if, after processing, you can think of no legitimate reason for the busybody’s unwanted attentions?

Lovingly confront
Third, lovingly confront the busybody. You should do this even with an unbeliever, no matter how much you may think the unbelieving busybody needs to be smacked upside the head with a 2 x 4! Follow the principles outlined in Matthew 18:15-17 scrupulously. First go to the busybody privately and explain to them you do not appreciate what they are doing. Explain to them (yes, use Scripture!) that what they are doing is sin and affects everyone around them. Explain to them how it makes the home, workplace, extended family, etc. an unhealthy place for everyone involved as long as this behavior continues. Ask them point blank to stop.

If the busybody continues to get up in your business, find a couple of trusted neighbors, friends, family, or co-workers and together confront the busybody. If even then the behavior continues, you have a couple of options.

If the busybody is a co-worker, you will then need to discuss the problem with your immediate supervisor. Often a word from management can stop the behavior in its tracks. If your boss does nothing or refuses to address the problem, follow the appropriate steps your work has put into place for dealing with workplace harassment.

If the busybody is a family member, you may need to speak with the person’s parents or spouse about the behavior. Tell them you need your help resolving an issue with the person. A good parent will correct the behavior, and a good spouse will lead their husband or wife to be better people. If they are unmarried, or out of their parents’ home, go to the family member that holds the most influence over the busybody and ask them for help.

If the busybody is a believer, does he/she attend your church? If so, ask your pastor or pertinent pastoral staff member for help. They should help you follow through on the remainder of Matthew 18.

Doesn’t attend your church? Be careful here. It would be best to still go to your pastoral staff for help, as often pastors in a community know each other and are working together in some ways for the good of the community. Initially, do not tell your pastor who the busybody is out of respect for a fellow believer and the other body of Christ involved. If your pastor and the other pastor decide a meeting is needed, then you are free to identify the busybody.

What if the busybody is not a believer? If you have followed the steps outlined above, follow up with the Gospel. A busybody’s greatest need is not to stop their gossipy meddling, but to be transformed by Christ that their minds may be renewed by the Holy Spirit. Remember also that in dealing with one who professes to be a believer, failure to repent and change is a sign that the person is not saved. Our duty then is no longer edifying the body of Christ, but sharing the Gospel and making disciples. Only regeneration and sanctification will change a busybody!

What if there is NO change?
If, after all this, the busybody refuses to change their ways, then I have a hard question to ask of you. Are you willing to suffer at the hands of the busybody that God may sanctify you (Romans 5:3-5, 8:16-26; Phil. 1:29; Heb. 2:10, 10:32-36)? Are you willing to “share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus (2 Tim. 2:3)?”

Finally, heed the wise words of 1 Peter 5:10 – “After you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.” Patiently endure the busybody, that you might receive a greater benefit from God himself.

Finally
I said this was a “therapeutic” post, that I was effectively preaching to self here. It really was therapeutic. It reminded me of the high calling to which I have been called, and my Scriptural need to be above thinking like the world. Instead, I need to be transformed in my mind (Romans 12:2) that I may present Christ clearly to the busybody through my words and actions.

I’m now far calmer than I was when I began writing this post. I’m more clearheaded. And I’m actually at the point where I simply don’t care anymore. That, my friends, is exactly what God wants from me – to care more about HIS nosiness than that of the WORLD!

Categories: Commentary
  1. Rebecca
    September 27, 2012 at 10:17 am

    After dealing with a very serious family matter last night, I went bullistic. This deals with the same person who refuses to mind her own business after repeated requests to do so. I found myself crying out to God to help me . Controlling and “busybody ” came to me this morning. What I read here is very helpful. THANK YOU!

  2. unknown
    August 9, 2013 at 1:36 pm

    I have endured a busybody mother-in-law for over ten years. I have confronted her, along with other members of the family. She refuses to change. God showed me the next step. Which is to remove myself from the abusive behavior. I feel free and liberated. I will trust God to take care of my abuser. Thanks for the artical. It was helpful.

  3. Patty
    January 22, 2014 at 1:05 pm

    I let my daughter and son-in-law move in my home, they brought his mother and now she has taken control of my house with busybody loud telephone calls every morning for hours and so much idle time. I cannot leave my own bedroom and I work out of my home because her loud voice covers the entire house gossiping. She is exactly what you have said tattletales at the slightest matters calling her son all day long and both my daughter and son-in-law won’t speak to her they tell me oh don’t worry about it and it continues to break my heart and spirit. I confronted her one day on her behavior (tattletale) what she had done and that this was causing conflict with our children and I told her that we should talk about things and if any conflict between us we should resolve. Remember this is my home I invited them to stay. I fell that they have brought sin into my home. I am a Christian and it feels like I’m being put through this for a purpose. I just came through the room and said you have to pray for her and then I found this article, and it reminds me of what I knew already, but when we are in the storm sometime we can’t remember what to do. I know anything is possible through God and that he has her in his hand. I’ll keep you posted

  4. Anna
    April 6, 2014 at 9:40 am

    I decided to end a relationship with my mother in law “busybody” attitude. I divorced her out of my life. Her attitude was annoying but the worse part my husband does nothing but states I hate her. Facebook was the ending deal.
    The divorced bit comes from her secretly sending information filling email about my negative attitudes. That sent me over the edge. I used to listen and agree when she talked about a former daughter in law whom ended in divorce, now I was in those former daughter in law shoes!
    This brought huge stress and guilt on our marriage. She would tell him I guess I have to be second best now. BOOHOO….
    I know my husband can’t deal with her but tolerates due to her “age”. He will still not defend me. My life would be simple if he stood up and said don’t bother my wife.
    I don’t understand why they still get to be busybodies? I can’t be on FB cause she is friend with my cousins and best friend. She is a glorified Christian which is the hardest part. Little peeved that my friends don’t seem to block her either which only elevates her “angel” status. I get deemed the evil isolated one but its her sinful behavior.
    I

  5. Kim
    May 10, 2014 at 5:37 pm

    I truly enjoyed your post. Preparing on talking about the meddling tongue in June. God bless you!

  6. Tina
    January 1, 2015 at 4:46 pm

    Thank you so much for writing this. Reading it was so tranquilizing, it’s good to know I am not the only one whose life is surrounded by busybodies. Why these people do such things is beyond my understanding, I’ve come to the conclusion that the more you try to understand why, the more you risk damaging yourself. It’s incredible how busybodies are caught up in this negative vortex they are not even aware of. My sympathies to all the busybody victims out there.

    • Anna C.P.
      April 4, 2015 at 10:38 pm

      Thank You, you are so right.

  7. Anna C.P.
    April 4, 2015 at 10:29 pm

    Thank You! I was looking on the Internet for what Scripture says about busy bodies. Your post is very thorough.

    In my experience with busy bodies, my advice to others, besides following the good advice in the above post, is to not spend too much of your time trying to change the person or reason with them. It IS good to follow the Christian steps above to try to help the busy body, but most of the time, giving them chance after chance only ” fuels the fire ” and gives them exactly what they want. They have already caused much stress for you and wasted your time, so letting them continue this behaviour could also be considered sinful on both sides – they have probably hurt other people, maybe without anyone standing up to them, and they need to know that their bad behaviour will not be tolerated. Sometimes all you can do is stop interacting with them, and cut off all contact. Sociopaths are sometimes hard to recognize at first, as they hide their true intentions with words and acts that seem friendly.

    Our recent situation with a busy body lasted about a year, and it got to the point where we realized just how dangerous some of them are (sociopath). It is definitely a sin and is evil. We spent a whole year enduring this person, giving hints to her nicely, and trying to give her a chance. Then we set limits, nicely, several times, but the busy body became even worse!
    We finally talked to her, and that conversation revealed to us that all along, she had no care or concern about how her actions affected others, showed no remorse or emotion at all. Unfortunately, she did not even want to stop or give up when we called the police to have her removed from our house, and even gave the police a hard time when they told her she had to either leave or be arrested.
    Thanks again for this post.

  8. Val
    April 6, 2015 at 9:07 am

    You are right, you have to take strong measures with busybodies. I know a lot of them hiding under the mask of good Christians or good samaritans who gossip and interfere in people’s lives out of “sympathy”. They’re really convinced people are buying their case. I wish more priests and pastors touched upon this subject, too many people just excuse their own meddling behaviour with their Christian role of “helping” someone. And most of the times, they just made things worse. A lot of people interpret their role of Christian in the wrong way, some think of themselves as God, and give themselves the right to manipulate people’s lives as if they were toys. If people could just stop using religion to their own purpose.

  9. Had enough!!
    August 19, 2015 at 7:51 pm

    I too have a busybody friend who appointed herself
    overseer of the donations and offerings made by
    those of us in the prayer and bible study group.
    She was given the job of handing out statements
    of the prior years offerings for tax purposes. She must
    have peeked inside because next thing I know she is
    telling me about how pitifully small another members
    offerings had been. I probably should have said some-
    thing then but didn’t. I couldn’t believe someone would
    be that nosy when it’s clearly none of her business.
    I think I was shocked and did not respond. She is an
    expert on anything and everything and knows whats
    best for everyone. 1 Thess. 4:11 says to mind our
    own business.I can’t imagine looking into someones
    personal contribution statement even if I know no one
    is around to see. God sees and that’s all that matters.
    She is constantly bragging about what she gives to the
    church and how she is their biggest giver. I guess she
    never reads her bible because the bible says to not
    let our left hand know what our right hand is doing
    when giving.He says when we brag about what we give,
    we already have our reward, and not from God.
    When a mutual friend died, her personal journals were
    given not to her family but
    to the pastor of the church. He actually read a half
    page out of one of them. I was beside myself wondering
    who would give someones personal prayer journal to
    someone to read aloud from at her funeral. Those thoughts
    were between her and God and I happen to think that
    they remain personal even after death. I think my nosy
    friend is the one who gave it to him. She was not even that
    close to this friend of mine that died and should have asked
    permission from her brothers or from lifelong friends that
    knew her better. She never fails to bring up what someone
    else “should” be doing, or some news about someones
    failure. I’ve had enough. If someone has advice on how to
    correctly convey this to her biblically and with good results,
    please say so. Not only for my sake but for the sake of all
    of her “victims” and even for her own sake!!

  10. Goto sue
    August 24, 2015 at 2:01 am

    I just had to comment on this busy body subject. I have a very nosy and busybody sis in law who would not stop asking me what I did whenever I see her! Even what I ate for lunch everyday!! It annoys me very much as I was home for a holiday as I live overseas and she comments on me eating out too much at night, as it it were any of her business what I choose to do. Usually I would spend one day out with her so as not to hurt her feelings although I would prefer not to have to deal with her at all. She would gossip about everything under the sun, usually nothing good about everyone as she cannot stand anyone doing better than her. She is a full time housewife and soooo free which makes it even worse for the maids in the house as she grumbles all the time!!
    We are Christians and I don’t think she even reads the bible or she should know what the bible says about minding your own business.
    She is also jealous whenever my mother buys a new pair of shoes or gets a new dress!! Commenting on how many pairs or thousands of clothes she already has!! It is always OK with her but not for someone else!She would also make comments that I spend too much of my mother’s money when I go out with my mother not knowing that I paid for everything as I don’t intend to let her anything either.Can someone tell me if this is a typical evil busybody??If it was not for my brothers sake I would have slapped her in the face!!

  11. christly
    January 22, 2016 at 11:29 am

    I been working in a company for more than 10 years. I still working in this company and recently I do have a thought of resigning from there. Our secretary is our worse nightmare. She could actually bring weather to our office. When she is in good mood, the office was sunshine and when she is in bad mood, the whole office turn disaster. It could turn worse than volcano erupted or Tsunami! She loved to tease me and only me and I don’t know why. She love to ask into my personal life and never at once I ask hers. She could actually ask what I do at home, where I go to eat for lunch, dinner during Saturday, Sunday or holiday. If I take my leave off she would ask me where I go and when she take her leave, I never ask her although I do want to pay her back!!!! It seem like my personal life become her personal life. When I done wrong in my paper work she would keep asking why I done wrong? Where I done wrong? Why I didn’t check it? There a lots of why. And when she done a mistake, no one dare to ask her back! That was a worse secretary! I wonder what type of secretary course she took back in the past? Secretary busybody?? There was a lot of time, I dream about punch her right to her face and took off her glasses and bit her! But I know this was not what God wants me to be…So I have a hard time dealing with this…I can only pray for her and also for me.

  12. Joyce
    February 8, 2016 at 3:43 pm

    I understand all too well :-(. I have 3 family members that feel like they have to be in control of the entire extended family. Ugh….its a headache when its your turn for their mighty finger to point at you. They hear bits and pieces of a story and complain or lash out with the incomplete information they have. Lord, give me the strength because its come around to my turn again

  13. Anonymous
    April 11, 2016 at 7:17 am

    Thank you for this interesting and helpful article. I have a sister who, although she “means well” is prevailing on me in a manner that is inappropriate. I do not know what her actual motivation is, but the conversations I have had with her lately have left me shocked and feeling humiliated and week. After the initial “shock” wears off, my first thought is “this girl needs to see a priest”.
    And that is the point of your article. Your observations are spot on. I am a grown woman and did not solicit her “help” or “advice” in certain matters. Why the minute details of my life are of such importance to her I have no clue. I only know that her prying and suggestions make me feel awful.
    I keep my communication with her to a minimum and just the pleasantries. When she starts in on me I excuse myself to go to the bathroom and end the conversation (if it’s on the phone) or just up and leave, saying it is time for me to go. She steps way over the boundaries. I do not know if she is aware, but it is not correct just the same. And her tone can get pretty bad, which is the tipoff that what is going on is somehow not right.
    Thanks you for the biblical references. I am not extremely religious, but I can certainly tell when someone has a spiritual misconception. Very difficult to deal with, hurtful and destructive. I take myself out of the destructive path.

  14. Karen
    April 12, 2016 at 8:56 am

    The Lord lead me to your blog this morning. It is exactly what I needed to read as I have a nosy busy body in my life right now. Thank you so much for blogging everything I need advice on. God bless you!!!

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