Thursday, May 28, 2009

Our Daily Bread: Gossip

Proverbs 10:18-21 (New International Version)

18 He who conceals his hatred has lying lips,
and whoever spreads slander is a fool.

19 When words are many, sin is not absent,
but he who holds his tongue is wise.

20 The tongue of the righteous is choice silver,
but the heart of the wicked is of little value.

21 The lips of the righteous nourish many,
but fools die for lack of judgment.

As I was reading along in my bible this morning, I stopped to reflect on these verses. My goodness, isn't this the truth? How often does our tongue get us in trouble... usually from the lack of brain to mouth filter. Mama was right when she said, "If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all". Sure, there are exceptions... sometimes the truth needs to be said and often, the truth hurts. These verses, however, address the poisonous indulgence of gossip. Oh, you know you love a good morsel of gossip; we all do. Some of us just learn to control it better than others. I'm not sure why it is that we are so attracted to gossip... perhaps the hunger for a good story? Reassurance that someone else isn't perfect either? Camaraderie with another secret-sharer? Being privy to information that no one else knows about? Having the means to question the credibility of an otherwise upright person? Stew on it. What attracts you personally to gossip?
It is always fun to be on the offensive end of gossip... but anyone who has been the subject of gossip and discovered what was said about them (and the subject always finds out...if nothing else, high school should have taught you that), it is damaging, hurtful, embarrassing and shameful. Why would we ever want to make another person feel that way? Regardless of the "validity" or your "justification" of the gossip...what good will come out of it? And regardless of your intention, as innocent as you would like to believe it is...NO good will come out of it...for you, for your secret-sharing buddy or for the subject involved. We all know that no one truly and intimately trusts a gossip, for you fear that if they find out about your imperfections, you will be the next topic of discussion. As a rule of thumb, if the matter can't be discussed directly to the subject's face...then keep your lips zipped. Bring the matter before God...He will give you the strength to overcome the temptation to call your girlfriends and spread a little morsel of destruction.
Think about never calling up your best friend and saying, "You will never believe what I just heard." Oh! Those are the best kinds of calls, aren't they? A big juicy secret that you aren't supposed to know about! And, before this I genuinely believed that I didn't have a problem with gossip! Not that I partake in it often, but when I do... I LOVE it. And my feelings of opposition toward turning my ear or nipping gossip in the bud when someone is trying to share information with me, have made me realize my very nature of being a sinner in a fallen world. But God has overcome the world and has called His children to live a life that is "not of this world". If you feel like you are in a battle against yourself, fighting against things that feel very natural...then congratulations. You are. And the realization that the gratification of partaking in gossip is momentary while the effects of it could very well last a lifetime...may be one of the biggest life lessons of all. Gossip destroys trust, ruins friendships and is the absence of grace and mercy.

Another destructive (but often acceptable) form of gossip plagues our church groups. "Oh my goodness, did you hear so-and-so did this? I can't believe it... Bless their heart. They need prayer." Nothing is more despicable then wrapping up a big piece of slander or gossip in a pretty "prayer" package and thinking that gossip is acceptable because you are discussing it with a fellow believer. Search your heart; examine your motives. 9 times out of 10 we are just looking for an acceptable way to gossip, either to show the faults of another believer or to put your "spiritual resistance" on display. If accountability and sincere concern are your genuine motives then speak to the subject directly. Most of the time, gossip is a rumor that you hear and pass along. However, if a legitimate offense has been committed against you, and the offender does not respond to you as an individual, then it is appropriate to bring another believer into the situation. Matthew 18:15-17, "If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that 'every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.' If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector. "

Going to another person before you have confronted your offender is wrong. But it is so much easier to collect support from other people before a confrontation. It is always easy to take the coward way out...but Jesus gives specific instructions on how to handle this particular situation. As hard as it may be, it will build your character and give honor to God by obeying his commands.

The commentary in my Quest Bible hits the nail on the head:

"Can my mouth ruin my life? Yes! Our mouths have the potential to make our lives miserable and affect our destiny. A chattering fool, says Proverbs, comes to ruin (v. 10). The more we talk, the more likely we are going to stray into areas of gossip and slander (10:19). Slander is the spreading of false and damaging information about another person as if it were true. Only a fool does that, because sooner or later truth wins out and the slanderer will be discredited and punished. (v. 18). Gossip, which is the sharing of rumors or information of an intimate, personal or sensational nature, ultimately destroys friendships and creates friction. (Proverbs 16:8 says, " A perverse man stirs up dissension, and a gossip separates close friends")
The wise person, however, speaks frugally. The tongue rightly used can nourish or feed others. A compliment or word of encouragement can brighten someones outlook or motivate a person to pursue a dream. Sharing the Word of God is another life-giving use. Our tongue doesn't affect only our destiny; it can also change the destiny of those we bless or curse.
That's why Proverbs advocates an economy of speech. It's a wise person who bridles his urge to blurt out everything on his mind. Even fools are thought to be wise when they keep their mouth shut. (Proverbs 16:28: "Even a fool is thought wise if he keeps silent, and discerning if he holds his tongue.")

I challenge you to really contemplate on how you deal with gossip and to take responsibility of your desire to partake. It is something that the majority of us struggle with but, with God's gracious mercy and strength, we can overcome. Pray about it; I certainly am. ;)

Philippians 4:8
"Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable- if anything is excellent or praiseworthy-think about such things."

Philippians 4:13
"I can do everything through Him who gives me strength."

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