Backstabbing is a betrayal, often verbal, by one posing as a friend. The word is self-explanatory, creating an image of a person who is pleasant to your face but, when your back is turned, stabs you. Backstabbing is cowardly. It lacks the courage of honest confrontation and resorts to slander or passive-aggressive revenge without revealing its motives.
Psalm 55 is David’s cry of anguish due to a backstabbing friend. He had enemies enough, but this betrayal hurt the most because it was done by someone he had been close to: “If an enemy were insulting me, I could endure it; if a foe were rising against me, I could hide. But it is you, a man like myself, my companion, my close friend, with whom I once enjoyed sweet fellowship” (Psalm 55:12–13). Many scholars believe David is referring to Ahithophel, David’s counselor who turned traitor and joined Absalom’s revolt (2 Samuel 15:31; 16:23; 17:23). Whomever David means, the man betrayed him, lied about him, and deserted him when David needed him.
Backstabbers do not walk in love as God commands us to walk (Ephesians 5:2; 2 John 1:6). They look out only for themselves (Philippians 2:4). Backstabbing is hypocrisy in action because the backstabber pretends loyalty to a person while secretly destroying him or his reputation. Backstabbing goes hand-in-hand with slander, gossip, and discord—all of which are condemned in Scripture (Colossians 3:8; 1 Peter 2:1; Romans 1:29; Proverbs 17:4; 2 Corinthians 12:20).
The Bible condemns backstabbing and all it entails. Proverbs 10:18 says, “Whoever conceals hatred with lying lips and spreads slander is a fool.” Backstabbers are fools because they are rejecting honesty, love, reconciliation, and kindness. They are defying Jesus’ Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” (Matthew 7:12). Those with a tendency to backstab others need to closely evaluate their motives and attitudes in light of Scripture’s commands. We cannot earn the trust of other people or fully speak into their lives when we are known for backstabbing.