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Do you like to gossip? I do.
“If you don’t have anything nice to say, come sit by me.”
Didn’t expect to hear me say that, did you? The truth is, I love to be “in the know” as the saying goes. I want to know who is healthy and who needs help. Who is hurting and who is celebrating.
And while visiting, sharing needs, and being vulnerable is a great thing, it can also turn ugly, faster than you expect.
Gossip creeps up on us. I can remember times I was laughing and chatting with a group of friends, honestly sharing our hearts, when all of a sudden I found myself in the middle of a conversation that I would need to apologize for later. A conversation that would keep me from falling asleep easily, and wondering if my daughters heard what was said.
I was very convicted earlier this year while I was reviewing a study I’d taken on the book of James. James 1:26 says that Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless.
Their. Religion. Is. Worthless.
Wow. Even reading that right now brings tears to my eyes because I had to apologize to someone just this weekend for gossiping. I wasn’t saying anything horrible or trying to hurt anyone, but I was sure sharing some stuff that didn’t need to be shared, and I wasn’t taking the time to build others up.
I was making my religion worthless. I was taking the sacrifice that my Savior made, and cheapening its beauty with my thoughtless words. In this wonderful season where I have more opportunity to share the love of Christ with others than at any other time, I was instead tearing it apart.
I don’t want to do that anymore.
With the holiday season upon us, most of us will be going to more meetings, gatherings, and parties than at any other time of the year. Some will be business, some will be pleasure. All of them will provide ample opportunity to gossip.
I want to encourage you not to fall into that trap.
When I was a teenager my father told me something about gossip that has stuck with me through the years, and stayed my tongue when I was tempted to share more than I should. He told me that to gossip about someone does more than harm them. It has the ability to murder their reputation.
That sounds a bit dramatic, don’t you think?
Maybe not. What if I told you that my friend Jane had an affair with a married man? An affair that almost ended in him divorcing his wife, and abandoning his family. It happened 30 years ago, but the family still struggles.
What do you think of Jane, now?
Of course I didn’t mention that Jane repented, that she did everything she could to make amends and has gone on to be one of the most compassionate and understanding people I know. I failed to say that she has used her story and mentored others and been instrumental in saving many marriages.
If you didn’t know Jane very well before I told you her story from 30 years before, what would you think of her now? Yes, I suspected as much. I have successfully, if unintentionally, murdered Jane’s reputation. And I haven’t done my own reputation any good, either. Who trusts a gossip? I don’t.
But it’s hard to avoid gossip, especially if you’ve let it become a habit. So how do you break a habit? One way is to replace it with something else.
Ephesians 4:29 says Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. I’ve loved this verse from the first time I read it. Not only does it command us not to gossip, it also tells us how to avoid doing so: use words that build others up; use words that they need to hear; use words that benefit others.
Ephesians 4:29 is an antidote to gossip. If you are using words to build up and benefit others, you certainly won’t turn right around and tear down what you’ve built. And even better, you’ll be upset with anyone else who tears it down, as well.
I am abundantly blessed to be surrounded by many strong women in my life who don’t gossip, and I’ve made a habit of studying them when someone else starts to tear another down.
What do they do?
How do they handle the situation? What do they do? Do they pull out their Bibles and start beating the gossip girl on the head? Obviously not, or I’d have multiple concussions by now.
No, they don’t try to beat their beliefs into others, they lead by example. First, they don’t bring up rumors or gossip themselves. Their words are kind and funny and encouraging. If someone does start gossiping, they try to subtly change the subject, or say something positive.
If that doesn’t work? They close their mouths and look away or look down. I know, because I’ve asked, that sometimes they are praying about whether to confront the offender, or remain silent. They are women of prayer and power. And if being silent doesn’t work? Sometimes they do confront, and sometimes they simply remove themselves from the group or situation.
What about you? What do you do when you have an opportunity to gossip? Do you cheapen your faith, or do you build others up? I sincerely hope that you are a builder, and not a demolisher.
Don’t give up!
If you’re like me, you’ve probably done both. Don’t give up. You can always start building and encouraging, right now, today!
If you need help, (and who doesn’t), this is a verse that I have started including in my prayers; from Proverbs 141:3. Set a guard over my mouth, LORD; keep watch over the door of my lips.
May your words be a delight to the Lord and point others to Him this holiday season. I believe in you, and I’m praying for you, too!
If you have trouble keeping your words and thoughts positive, I love this little book by Joyce Meyer. I’ve read and enjoyed it myself, and given several as gifts to friends. Let me know you think, and I’d also love to hear about ways you build others up.