Gossip. We’ve all been victims of it, and we’ve all been perpetrators of it. We hate when we hear someone has been talking poorly about us and it might even anger us when what is said is untrue. There’s a great lesson in the old game of “telephone” where one person whispers something to the person next to them, and then it is passed along through the line or circle of people and then spoken out loud at the end. Rarely is it even close to what was originally said, which often brings great laughter. Sometimes the morphing of the statement happens simply from people misunderstanding a word here or there, and sometimes it happens because someone deliberately changes a word or two just for the “fun of it.” Either way, it is a great reminder that whenever we hear something second, third (or even further) hand, we need to be very careful in how we react to it.
There’s a reason the Bible has so many verses about the need for controlling our tongues. The problem most of us have is that we often try to force bringing it under control through sheer will. We say or think things like, “I am just NOT going to say anything! I’m gonna stop it because I know it is not God-honoring and it’s just not good to do.” I’m not saying it doesn’t work sometimes to do that because there are certainly times when we have to just power through and force ourselves to stay on the high road in a given situation. That being said, it is not our nature to take the high road, and the only way we can conquer our natural tendencies is through God’s help.
Lately it seems this subject has come up more and more, whether it is at work, church, family or other relationships. I think we go through seasons where it just flares in all areas, and we watch the destruction that it can cause when people “share information” with or about others. (In case you didn’t know, “sharing information” is just a nice way of saying “gossiping.” LOL) Anyway, It struck me this week how important it is for us to go back to that one first and foremost commandment that we love God above all else and the second that we love others as ourselves. I have shared often about the characteristics and nature of love as it is described to us in the Bible, and one of the traits that came up for me recently is where it says it “believes all things.” That means it believes the best in people regardless of what is said. It means you choose to believe the best about those you love, and when gossip hits your ears about something they may or may not have actually said about you, then you choose to believe it was a misunderstanding. If I love you and esteem you better than myself, I won’t fall prey to spreading gossip about you or taking gossip I hear about you to heart.
It can be hurtful when you hear things about yourself or others that may or may not be true. As Christians, when this occurs, we sometimes say the best thing you can do is to follow what the Bible says about confronting someone who has offended you. Although that is a great passage that we should adhere to for personal offenses, it’s interesting when it comes to gossip, we don’t get offended at the person who is telling us. Instead, we get offended at some other person down the gossip chain. We misplace our sense of offense, and then have this inherent drive to “set the record straight.” As a result, we use the offended brother principle and say, “If someone offends me, then I need to go to him or her alone (not tell everyone else) to resolve the issue. Although that is true, it is meant for direct offense, not a perceived offense based on multiple levels of hearsay. The truth is, it shouldn’t matter to you what you heard about what someone else has said; what matters is what transpires between you and someone else directly. We do not have a right to go to someone based on hearsay. We also don’t have a right to be angry or offended based on hearsay. When you really think about it, if we are going to be angry and offended when we hear gossip that upsets us, maybe it should be directed at the one who shared it with us. But then again, everything we do should come back to love as it is described in 1 Corinthians chpt 13.
As I mentioned earlier, if I love you in the manner God has instructed me to love, and someone else tells me that you said something mean, nasty or untrue about me, I will choose to not believe it. Until God reveals otherwise, I will believe that something has been misunderstood or misinterpreted along the way. And if I don’t do that, then I’m not really exhibiting love at all. I know there are some who will disagree with me when I say this, but we don’t have a right to be angry, set the record straight or even clear our names. We don’t need to try and root out the source of the gossip so we can confront it. We need to simply leave it up to God, and the truth is we don’t like that one bit! It goes against our nature. The way we stop tongues from wagging is to simply not be one of them. And when something is said, we should respond with something like “I’m not comfortable hearing or discussing this unless that person is here to defend themselves.” That holds true whether we want to agree with the gossip or not. It’s easy to believe the bad about a person (or their intent/motives) when their personality rubs us the wrong way. Even as Christians, we tend to always believe the worst in each other. We may start out believing the best, but then something happens that we disagree with, we just stew about it. It’s just so much easier to believe the negative. And, truth be told, a lot of times we actually take pleasure in it. That should never be the case! We need to remember that we need to guard and control our ears as much as we need to guard and control our tongues!
Telling tales (true or not) is one of the most destructive aspects of life. And whether we are the one speaking or listening, we feign innocence. We feign concern. We do it and then use those things to cloak our gossip instead of calling it what it is. It doesn’t make it any more innocent to say we are sharing it because, “Somebody ought to know.” It doesn’t make it any more honorable to say we are just seeking someone from which to get information on something we did not happen to witness personally. Well the truth is, God already knows what has occurred, been said and/or done. The question is: Do you trust Him or not to take care of things? I’m not asking what you SAY, but what you practice internally. We all answer that question with a resounding “Yes,” but then don’t act accordingly. When you boil it down to these types of questions, it can really hit you in the heart. I know it certainly has for me.
This life of faith – “kingdom living” – is a higher calling, and if we are not going to rise up to that level, then we need to stop calling ourselves Christians. I’m not saying we will always be successful, because we will fail. We will fail miserably because our emotions will get in the way. We will fall prey to the enemy’s advances in our lives through our tongue and through our ears. It is time for it to stop. It is time to stand up and truly love in the way we are commanded. Because when we don’t, we are out of fellowship with God. It is not a feeling; it is a choice. It isn’t important what someone else says about you or what you may have heard about someone else. What is important is that when we engage in gossip or any other unloving behavior toward each other, God no longer hears our prayers because we now have unconfessed sin in our own lives (Psalm 66:18; Isaiah 59:2). The only way we can break through the deafening barrier of our own sin is by confessing it to God and asking for His forgiveness, which he has promised to grant every single time (1 John 1:9).
Genuine love is not easy. If it were easy, there’d be a lot more of it. Love requires sacrifice. Most often, more than any other type of sacrifice, it is our pride and our “justice gene” that needs to be sacrificed on the altar. It is the nature that compels us to prove our innocence, or sometimes to prove someone else’s guilt, that needs to be sacrificed on the altar. Brothers and sisters, it is time that we come together. It is time to lay aside our perceptions, anger, and the incessant need to be right or to hold onto things that the enemy uses to attempt to divide us. We need to live and love as God commanded us to do – even when we may feel we have been wronged. Trust me, God can and will settle all accounts.
So as for me, it is my renewed commitment to be constantly striving to love as God expects me to love and forgive as He expects me to forgive. For me, it is a renewed commitment to believe the best in my brothers and sisters (and even non‑believers), whether at home, church, work or anywhere else. We need to do it with our spouses, children, family, friends, coworkers , etc., and yes, even with our enemies. There is no such thing as “partial obedience” when God instructs us to do something. It is pretty simple: either we obey or we do not. Let’s get back to weeding our own gardens instead of trying to weed each other’s. Let’s take the log out of our own eyes before trying to remove the splinter from someone else’s. And let’s quit finding creative ways to rationalize our behavior when it does not coincide with what we SAY we believe or KNOW is true. I call you to join me. I call us to action. Because through love, we are truly unstoppable.
ps – some great reminders…
Ephesians 4:29 – 29 Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.
James 1:26 – 26 If anyone thinks himself to be religious, and yet does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this man’s religion is worthless.
James 3:9-10 (In regards to the tongue) – 9 With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the likeness of God; 10 from the same mouth come both blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be this way.