A few months ago, I was enjoying some alone time at a coffee shop (the best, right?!) and I overheard two girls talking at the table next to me. One girl interrupted their study to say, “I know this isn’t my place and I’m not trying to gossip or anything, but so-and-so seems like she’s become really [insert criticism here]…”
It turned into a 20-minute gossip fest about their friend’s clothing decisions, attitude and relationships. They discussed their frustrations with each and every one of their friends, and all the while, justified it as venting.
That conversation bothered me to my core. It was still on my mind an hour later when I left and got into my car.
Why couldn’t I get over it?
Because they sounded a whole lot like me.
Those girls struck a cord in my heart. Although I wouldn’t consider myself a “gossip” now (high school was a different story), I can be incredibly guilty of sharing my frustrations with others to my husband or another close friend when I’m facing difficulties.
If I allow myself to be careless with my words, “I’m not trying to gossip” actually means, “I totally intend to gossip, but please excuse it since I said I’m just venting.”
Isn’t that how we make ourselves feel better? We justify our words (or even go so far to say that we’re seeking counsel), even if we know full well that we’re just using that time to speak poorly about other people. And we’re attempting to gain a companion while we’re at it.
Ever since this day at the coffee shop, I have been analyzing why gossip says more about us than the people we’re talking about:
1. We bond with our friends over anger, frustration and hatred. It makes us feel as if our friendship is somehow stronger when that friend dislikes the same person we dislike. Or when they see the same flaws in others that we also see. Is that really a foundation that we want to rely upon and take pride in? It’s a little twisted, isn’t it?
2. When we talk about other people, we add fuel to the already burning fire. We ignite our anger and separate the friendship even further. Rather than lifting up our frustrations in prayer and asking God to work in our hearts and relationships, we are motivating ourselves and others to slander another person’s character, destroy a reputation or become even more bitter than we were before the conversation began.
3. When someone is willing to talk to us about another person, they are very likely just as willing to talk to another person about us. Our gossip causes others to be more cautious in what they share with us and the amount of trust they have in who we are.
4. It makes our own insecurities much, much more evident. When someone is constantly encouraging, loving and uplifting their friends, my immediate thought is that they are confident, joyful and content in their life. However, if someone always has a negative word to say about another, I begin to think that they have a long list of insecurities that they are projecting onto others.
There are over 30 verses in scripture about the damage caused by gossip and slander. Why do we take it so lightly? We should be thinking before we speak, in all circumstances.
Is what you’re about to say Truthful?
Is it Helpful?
Is it Inspiring?
Is it Necessary?
Is it Kind?
If the answer is ‘no’ to even one of these categories, we should always, always hold our tongues.
Guys, neither our husbands, friends, pastors nor family members should have to bear the burden when we are dealing with hard relationships, unless we are seeking their opinion on how to handle the issues going on in our hearts (and names aren’t named.) The rest should be left up to prayer (lots of it) and a conversation between us and the person that we have an issue with.
I recently went to a funeral where a friend spoke compassionately about the woman who had passed. He gave her one of the most amazing compliments; one that I was challenged by and personally aspire to hear one day.
He shared, “I never once heard her speak poorly about anyone. She always only had very good things to say and only wanted the best things for every single person she met.”
Can this be said of your character today?