Remember the nosey neighbor on “Bewitched?” Her name was Gladys Kravitz. That is the person I envision when I think of a gossip. She made it her business to report on the happenings of the neighborhood. I can still see her whipping back the curtains to get a glimpse of the action.
I recently had a conversation with my sister on the topic of gossip. That conversation has lingered to the point that I asked the Lord to show me the difference between gossip and slander and how it begins. Ask and you shall receive, right?
Gossip begins with something as innocent as idle talk. The scripture that first came to me was 2 Timothy 2:16 “But avoid all empty (vain, useless, idle) talk, for it will lead people into more and more ungodliness.”
Being one who learns best from word pictures, stories, songs, etc., here’s how it was fed to me, using a fictional example of a typical conversation between friends that started out innocently enough, but ended up in a train wreck.
“Amy: Hey, I was just thinking about Mary. How is she? She’s always been such a hardworking, nice girl. I really admire her. (Idle talk)
Maya: Mary had a little lamb and then she had another. And then she had another lamb from a married brother. (Gossip)
Amy: What??? I had no idea.
Maya: Yeah, if she would’ve stayed in church like she was raised she would’ve made better choices the first time and not married that loser. Now she’s the neighborhood ___________ chasing after married men. Keep her in your prayers. It’s so sad!” (Slander)
You see how innocently that began? I even see how Maya’s initial comment was factual, but before she completed her thought that train was already off the track and headed for a wall. You see why the scripture encourages us to avoid idle talk? It began as a spark and then just got out of control.
…the tongue is a small thing that makes grand speeches. But a tiny spark can set a great forest on fire.” James 3:5 “but no one can tame the tongue. It is restless and evil, full of deadly poison.” James 3:8 OY!!!
When I explained my “findings” to my sister I likened it to a car that sits in idle. It’s on but not going anywhere yet. The minute you move from park to drive you have increased your potential for an accident.
I was challenged recently by someone and our exchange was super peaceful. As we spoke I kept hearing the Holy Spirit say, “shut it down” and so I did and all was well. Later, I repeated the exchange to someone I dearly love and respect, (perhaps for some insight, maybe for some validation), never divulging any names, but that wasn’t good enough for the Lord, you see. My spirit was checked and immediately I reached out to her and I apologized for sharing the exchange with her. I love our fellowship too much to become familiar enough to go “there.” Oh, the grace she extended to me….that and so many reasons why I love her!
Good grief, what do we talk about then?
I’m thinking that if we habitually fix our thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure and lovely, and admirable, excellent, and worthy of praise, that is what will be deposited in our hearts and will make its way out to the hearer.
And then there’s always the monk life.
Either way, here’s some wisdom that brings this topic home.
“Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.” Ephesians 4:29
“Whoever belittles his neighbor lacks sense, but a man of understanding remains silent. Whoever goes about slandering reveals secrets, but he who is trustworthy in spirit keeps a thing covered.” Proverbs 11:12-13
“Whoever goes about slandering reveals secrets; therefore do not associate with a simple babbler”. Proverbs 20:19
“Whoever keeps his mouth and his tongue keeps himself out of trouble.” Proverbs 21:23
I’m encouraged to kick it up a notch. To listen and redirect conversations that may go south, to watch my words, to season my conversation with kindness only and to avoid being a receptacle for anyone else’s trash.
If you hear I’ve joined a monastery, you will know that I have failed. 🙂