Saturday, August 12, 2017

When the Gossip is About Us

Charles Spurgeon writes,

“The best way to deal with slander is to pray about it: God will either remove it, or remove the sting from it. Our own attempts at clearing ourselves are usually failures; we are like the boy who wished to remove the blot from his copy, and by his bungling made it ten times worse.”

Things to keep in mind when people talk about us behind our back, either negatively--to disparage us--or in a manner that shares our personal news before we get a chance to share our news ourselves:

This act of gossip is more about them than about the people they are talking about.

Thomas Fuller says

“There is nothing that so much gratifies an ill tongue as when it finds an angry heart.”

Gossips and busybodies are, at heart, petty, jealous, antagonistic, competitive and frustrated individuals.

And yet, as Frederick Faber says,

“I find great numbers of moderately good people who think it fine to talk scandal. They regard it as a sort of evidence of their own goodness.”

Many, if not most people, who gossip or conversationally meddle in the lives of others, hold an unrealistically high regard for themselves. Ironically, they hold this regard out of deep insecurities and lack of confidence (which explains the condition of the heart mentioned above).

If we know someone to be a gossip (and because we have heard how they talk about others, we can guarantee that they also talk about us), and they are a friend, co-worker, relative, close neighbor or fellow church congregant, we have three choices as to how to go forward in relationship with them:

First, we can address their gossip, lovingly but firmly. We can do this directly,

“Jane, I feel uncomfortable when other people are brought up in the conversation like this. I really don’t want to go there.”

Or indirectly by changing the subject:

“Well, I certainly can’t comment on that, but I can say this weather has been great for my garden!”

If addressing the problem has no effect, and we loathe the idea of always having to deflect gossip when we are with this person, the next plan is to put distance between our self and the person.

Proverbs 20:19 says,

"A gossip betrays a confidence;
so avoid a man who talks too much."

Sin has consequences. Gossip is a sin. Gossip has consequences—especially if we have let the gossip know we do not want to listen to or participate in conversation that is outside of God’s will. 

We are Biblically justified in separating ourselves from gossip. This is called setting healthy boundaries: boundaries that breed goodwill in ourselves and with others because it doesn’t give the gossip an audience.

If we are in situations in which we are forced to be social, such as family holiday gatherings and work events, it may be difficult to entirely separate ourselves from certain people. But we can locate the folks at the gathering who are not talking ill of others and hang out with them, or, if none are to be found, we make our obligatory appearance and leave the party after a short stay.

Again, we can only control our own tongue. And that is what we do in all situations, regardless of how others talk.

Finally, we become wise in never saying anything of any personal importance to a person with loose lips.

With these kinds of people, it is best to hold our personal life very close to the vest and never say anything about our selves or our children that we would not want printed on the front page of the newspaper!

I have very few trusted comrades. The person I trust the most is my husband, with whom I share my heart and day-to-day life. I do not throw what is sacred to me into the hands of those whose only desire is to use what I have said as fodder for their “concern”, tsk tsking, “dismay”, political correctness and negative estimation of how, in general, I choose to live my life.  

In the end, what people say about us is out of our control. We can attempt to nip their words in the bud, or remove ourselves from their presence, but until and unless a gossip’s heart changes, the gossip will continue.

It is best, and our joy, to walk with our heads held high in the affirmation and guidance of the Lord, and in the comfort and assurance of friendships with people on this earth who do respect us enough to not talk about us behind our backs, nor look for every possible way to find fault.

We can have compassion, albeit from a distance, for those who remain in their inner prison of feeling as though they must always make their thoughts and their words about other people. We must take them, and ourselves, to God in prayer, along with any hurtful, frustrating or misleading pronouncements they’ve spoken.

That’s where we leave them and their words. And then, we walk away.

copyright Barb Harwood

“The fear of the LORD teaches a man wisdom,
and humility comes before honor.” Proverbs 15:33

“All a man’s ways seem innocent to him,
but motives are weighed by the LORD.” Proverbs 16:2

“The LORD detests all the proud of heart.
Be sure of this: They will not go unpunished.” Proverbs 16:5

“Through love and faithfulness sin is atoned for;
through the fear of the LORD a man avoids evil.” Proverbs 16:6

“When a man’s ways are pleasing to the LORD,
he makes even his enemies live at peace with him.” Proverbs 16:7

“Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed that he does not fall. No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.” 1 Corinthians 10:12-13

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