by Cherie Werner
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. Ephesians 4:29
One of the greatest jobs I have as a mother is to instill godly character into my children. To do this, I intentionally utilize both resources and teachable moments. I have found that it is best to learn from life’s blunders. Currently I am reading aloud and discussing the book Love As A Way of Life by Gary Chapman with my youngest daughter, Cayley, as well as the mom group I’m leading. At the end of one of the chapters, I became convicted. There was a challenge to evaluate verbal interactions with others and determine whether or not the words spoken were kind. If any unwholesome words came to mind, the challenge encouraged you to take action and apologize.
My heart sunk as I remembered a phone conversation that I had with a friend. I sent the apology email below to my friend and then read it aloud to my daughter. Even though I was embarrassed by my blunder, I wanted to use it as a teachable moment. Words do matter and carry weight.
OK my dear friend, things just got real. I just finished reading a chapter on kindness to Cayley and I was convicted.
I read, “To make kindness a habit, ask yourself after each verbal interaction with another person, what kind words did I say and what unwholesome words did I say?” I thought back to our conversation and was convicted.
I realized that sharing with you about my disgruntles with ________ were not edifying or life giving. I did looked up the quote you mentioned by Dave Ramsey concerning gossip which said, “gossip is defined as discussing anything negative with someone who can’t help solve the problem.” So I’m apologizing for gossiping.
Words are powerful as they give life or death. I desire to be known as one who spreads life.
My friend wrote me back the following:
Your email made me think, what if the words about _______ were said in a happy, surprised, and excited tone, but because it was hearsay, and because of our filters, we assume it was negative? It gave me a lot to think about. The other thing that I want to sort through with you is where is the line between gossip and sharing our heart, and frustration with a friend.
Was I gossiping or simply sharing my heart and frustration with a friend? I wanted to know. Actually, I needed to know.
Two definitions of gossip:
- Dictionary – Casual or unconstrained conversation or reports about other people, typically involving details that are not confirmed as being true.
- Bible – One who reveals secrets, one who goes about as a talebearer or scandal-monger.
Gossip is different from sharing information in many ways. Below are some ways I feel the two differ but I’m sure there are many others.
- Consider your motives for sharing? Are you seeking to build yourself up by making others look bad? We often feel superior to the person we are talking about which is prideful and often gossip.
- Gossiping wants to share and tell a story for reactions. It is done repeatedly to many persons.
- If you are hurt or angry with someone and desire to draw others into your pain wanting them to side with you it’s likely you are gossiping.
- What type of information is being shared? Gossipers speak of the faults and failures of others or reveal possibly embarrassing or shameful details regarding the lives of others without their knowledge or approval.
- Gossip usually occurs when you complain or talk about one person to someone who knows both of you.
- Ask if what you are saying is helpful for building up the person I am speaking about by sharing this? Charles Spurgeon said, “Tale bearing/gossip emits a threefold poison. It injures the teller, the hearer, and the person concerning whom the tale is told.”
- Ask yourself why you want to share this information, do you have permission, and if it’s necessary? Then consider whether you would share if the person you were talking about were present? If not, you are most likely gossiping.
- It’s gossip to say anything about someone that will lower the listener’s opinion of that someone as gossip changes the way we see people.
- Do you have a complaint about someone that you take to someone else who can do nothing about it? If so, then that is gossip.
- Do your words build up and edify others? Gossipers seek to tear down others.
- Kind words see the best in people and call it forth. Gossipers tend to focus on the negative and nit pick.
- When someone is talking negatively about others it become gossip on your part if you jump into the conversation.
- Don’t participate. Excuse yourself from a conversation that becomes full of gossip, to avoid “falling into” gossip games or socializing-by-demoralizing.
- Encourage them to speak directly to the person who is involved as it’s biblical, see Matthew 18:15
- Let gossip end with you. Help navigate the conversation to whatever is true, pure, and lovely.
- Always remember your words are powerful enough to give life or death.
- Will what you share glorify God?
With this particular situation, I decided that my friend might be right as I truly was sharing my heart. Nevertheless, I realize that it is a fine line. Next time, before talking to a friend about something, I will ask myself if what I am about to say is true, kind, necessary, or helpful? This whole experience has reminded me that it is important to THINK before speaking. “He who guards his mouth keeps her life, but she who opens wise her lips comes to ruin.” Proverbs 13:3
T –is it true?
H –is it helpful?
I –is it inspiring?
N –is it necessary?
K –is it kind?
In closing, I encourage you to ponder the following poem by Ann Landers. Personally, this poem really made me think deeper about a few things.
“My Name Is Gossip. I have no respect for Justice.
I maim without killing. I break hearts and ruin lives.
I am cunning and malicious and gather strength with age.
The more I am quoted the more I am believed.
I flourish at every level of society.
My victims are helpless. They cannot protect themselves against me because I have no name and no face.
To track me down is impossible. The harder you try, the more elusive I become.
I am nobody’s friend.
Once I tarnish a reputation, it is never quite the same.
I topple governments and ruin marriages.
I ruin careers and cause sleepless nights, heartache and indigestion.
I spawn suspicion and generate grief.
I make innocent people cry in their pillows.
Even my name hisses. “I AM CALLED GOSSIP.” Office gossip. Shop gossip. Party gossip.
I make headline and headaches.
Before you repeat a story ask yourself. Is it true? Is it fair? Is it necessary?
If not – KEEP QUIET.
GREAT minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; shallow minds discuss people. Eleanor Roosevelt
Which are you?
How do you differentiate between gossiping and sharing? I’d really like to know.