I’ve thought of writing so many things over the past few weeks but I would decide against it every time. Sometimes it was because the thought was incomplete and sometimes the decision was more influenced by not having the time to sit down… but most often I found myself struggling with whether or not sharing certain things would be helpful or advisable at all.
You have to be careful with what you say, how you say it, when and where and to whom it is said… Some things ought not to be shared but kept private, some things can be shared in confidence, one-on-one, with the right person, and some things are really good to share because they might be reminders that people need to hear or think about.
Let no harmful language come from your mouth, only good words that are helpful in meeting the need, words that will benefit those who hear them.
Ephesians 4:29 (CJB)
Lately, my friends and I have been thinking a lot about gossip. Not spreading it, but discussing what it is and what it does. I think we can all agree that gossip is not helpful.
A gossip goes around revealing secrets,
but a trustworthy person keeps a confidence.
Proverbs 11:13 (CJB)
The Bible warns us against gossip. It separates friends (Proverbs 16:28; 17:9) and perpetuates quarrels (Proverbs 26:20). It feels or sounds good but ultimately is unhelpful. A gossip betrays confidence – you can’t trust someone who will go around sharing things they shouldn’t be sharing.
So why do we do it?
I think we often feel powerless and unheard. We desperately need and want support from those around us and we want to be validated in our thoughts and feelings. I also think we’re sometimes confused by own thoughts and need some help sorting them out so we use others as a sounding board. Sometimes we are also truly concerned about a friend and we want others in a position to help them to be aware of the situation. Perhaps some people actually seek to break up other friends by telling them negative things about the other person. Obviously, that last reason is extreme and always terrible, but what can someone do in the other circumstances?
“Everything is permitted,” you say? Maybe, but not everything is helpful. “Everything is permitted?” Maybe, but not everything is edifying.
1 Corinthians 10:23 (CJB)
Justification of an action still doesn’t mean it should be done.
We must always exercise caution when we speak.
I can strongly identify with the desire to be heard and understood. I was recently in a painful and confusing situation and I wanted to know that people supported me. I ought to have been more careful about what I shared, how I said it, when and where and to whom I said it… I should have taken my own advice! It made me feel slightly better in the moment, but it might also have made things worse in some ways.
Thankfully there is grace.
I can also completely understand feeling confused by my own thoughts and needing a sounding board to sort out whether I’m being unreasonable or not. In this case, it’s still very important to discern who can truly provide sound guidance – like a pastor or a more mature friend – and you still have to take care to check your heart so you don’t say angry, judgmental, or untrue things about someone else.
When you have a conflict with a person and you’re concerned about them, the first step should be to tell them directly. If that doesn’t work, you can try to approach them again, with another person, so you would have to discuss a little bit. When you’re sharing a concern, once again, you have to check your heart and make sure that you’re still speaking in truth and love. If this still doesn’t work, you can get someone from church leadership involved, following the same principles as when you speak with another mutual friend.
Afterwards? Drop it.
Clearly all the talk is not helping anyone. You’ve done your job, you’ve tried… that’s all you can do and if you keep talking about it, you will continue to cause harm.
This is where we get into the negative effects of gossip.
It breeds mistrust. It is a constant reminder of negativity, pain, anger, etc… It is unhelpful to the situation and harmful to yourself and others.
The best idea in desperate situations is to turn to God.
Pray. Cry. Journal. Read.
This is the safest and most helpful way to deal with your thoughts.
We are not designed to be completely self-reliant but rather to seek out the Lord’s wisdom and strength and peace and comfort when we’re unable to sort ourselves out.
I know it’s nothing new, but I think it’s worth considering again and again.
A person’s belly will be filled with the fruit of his mouth;
with what his lips produce he will be filled.
The tongue has power over life and death;
those who indulge it must eat its fruit.
Proverbs 18:20-21 (CJB)
We must all learn discernment. We must all practice self-control.
This will make us all stronger, happier, and healthier.
This will help us love one another and live in peace.
I know there was nothing earth-shattering there, but that’s what I’ve been thinking about lately and that’s why I haven’t written everything I’ve wanted to write about.
Be blessed ❤