Last week I posted this statement on Twitter: What a difference it would make if, when engaged in a conversation that smacked of gossip, we held up our hand and said, “Stop!” Reading Susie Larson’s book, Uncommon Woman, is what prompted my post. She shares a powerful message in her book on the effects of gossip.
I’ve never really thought of myself as much of a gossip. In high school, however, I had a reputation for being unable to keep a secret. To be honest, I don’t know how I earned that reputation, but I made it a goal to change that image when I left for college. I would much rather be known as a woman who forgets to share important information than one who shares too much. And for the most part I think I’ve done that although, admittedly, I’m better at keeping secrets if you tell me it’s a secret. For instance, if you are pregnant and tell me, I might tell someone else because I’m excited for you. So, if you don’t want me to spread it around, just tell me it’s a secret and it will be safe. Consider yourself warned.
Of course, my bold tweet (which also hit Facebook) was bound to be challenged by the one guy who loves to see me fail – Satan. And so it was that I found myself in a situation talking to a friend about a mutual acquaintance. We’ll call our mutual acquaintance, MA, for ease of discussion. Our chat started out innocently enough, but then my friend started telling me of her less than stellar encounter with MA. There was a little nudge in my heart that said, “Put your hand up! Say stop!” But sadly I ignored the sage advice I’d proclaimed less than 24 hours before!
And so it was that in a matter of five minutes I listened to an unflattering report on MA’s behavior. Mind you, I love MA. I consider her a friend who is giving and kind and loves Jesus. The same is true of the friend who told me of MA’s less than flattering behavior. But sadly, because we are human, even Christians don’t always get along. And the truth is, when we get hurt by someone our natural response is to tell someone else about it. What we are really looking for is for someone else to take our side and make us feel better about our position. And as someone who has been given a generous portion of the “mercy gift,” I struggle between wanting to sympathize with my friend and protecting myself from hearing unwanted information.
What happens then is that I feel like Paul in his letter to the Romans, “I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead, I do what I hate” (Romans 7:15). Ugh!! And it leaves me not only feeling guilty, but wondering about MA (or whoever has been talked about). Is she really who I thought she was? I can’t believe she acted like that! This takes me directly to the next sin – judgment. All because I didn’t put my hand up and say, “Stop.”
Please don’t take me wrong. I’m not blaming my friend for sharing her story with me. “Talking things out” seems to be innate. I’ve done it myself. As I’ve thought and prayed about this problem, I’ve come upon some ideas to help me change. First, when I get hurt by someone I will go directly to the Lord to discuss it. I will pour out my heart; cry, kick, scream – whatever it takes – because I know the Lord is safe and will direct me to forgiveness when He sees I’m done throwing my hissy fit. Secondly, if I absolutely must “talk it out” with “someone with skin on” I will call a friend in another state, or who knows no one else involved in the situation. And, when I find myself in a situation where I think I’ll hear more than I want, I will, with the power of the Holy Spirit’s help, put up my hand and say, “Please stop. I love you, but I also love the person about whom you are speaking.”
I will not allow Satan to have his way with me. I will continually seek refuge in the God of my salvation. That is the only way I can affect a change. Won’t you join me?