A few years ago, I found myself gossiping all the time. I'd get around people and my opinions would just spew out by the mouthfuls, and boy did I have an opinion about everyone!
I'm not sure when or how it clicked with me, but The Holy Spirit brought it to my attention. God had me take a hard look at myself and I didn't like what I saw. I was trying to get my memoir published at that time and I felt The Holy Spirit in me telling me, "If you can't love the women I've placed in your life, why would I allow you to reach other women?"
It was a hard truth, but it was true. I needed to love the people in my life and I'm not talking about the superficial love we tend to give out on a whim. I'm talking about the way God loves; the sacrificial kind of love. The kind of love that's full of grace and forgiveness. That was the kind of love I lacked and it showed in my speech.
So I did some soul searching. I joined Bible studies and surrounded myself with Godly women. I dove into His word and really worked on changing my heart so that I could change my words.
"A good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is evil: for of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaketh." ~LUKE 6:45
I drew closer to God, always asking Him to show me where and how He wanted me to change, no matter how painful that process might be and believe me, it was painful. I lost a couple of friends during that time and it hurt, but I gained many more friends with the new, kinder me.
Since then I've worked really hard to make sure my words are kind and edifying. I don't always get it right, but I do really try. When I'm tempted to gossip, I ask myself a few questions and these have really helped me. Hopefully they will help you too.
When I'm tempted to speak about someone behind their back I first ask myself....
1) Is it kind?!!! --It doesn't matter if it's true. If you have a negative opinion about someone and feel the need to talk about it, then you should be speaking to the person you have those opinions about or you should keep your trap shut...
2) Will it change their (the person you're speaking to) opinion about that person (the person you're talking about) in a negative way? --This sort of falls in line with the previous one, but digs a little deeper. Here's the thing, you've developed your negative opinions about someone based on your experience with that person. Maybe they said something mean. Maybe they did something rude. Whatever it is, it's your opinion and telling someone else might change their opinion about that person too, when really, they should be allowed to make their own opinion about that person based on their own experiences. Does that make sense?
3) Is it your secret to tell? -- This one's a kicker but so very important!!! This is one I see people doing all the time and still not considering it gossip, but it is and here's why. Maybe you feel the need to share about someone else's situation. Maybe you've convinced yourself you're not "slandering" them by just sharing something like: "Did you hear _____'s husband cheated on her, but she stuck with him anyway?" Or "Did you know ______'s dad is in jail for ____?" But the truth is, it's still slander. And we've all been there before, where you try to rationalize that it's not "gossip" because it's public knowledge about so and so, but if it's in any way a negative secret, then it's not your secret to share! Let whoever's secret it is be the one to tell whomever they wish! Period! End of discussion!
EXAMPLE 1: One day I was in the car with a friend and she asked me why I didn't like someone. Apparently I had said or done something to lead her to this conclusion. I wrestled internally because I wanted to explain to her what my issues were with that person so she could see I was "completely justified" in my opinions :-p LOL. But in the end, what I wanted to say wasn't nice and it might have changed her opinions about that other girl, so instead I said, "A lot of my issues with her are my issues of me being judgmental and I'm praying for God to change my heart toward her." I meant every word and the funniest thing happened, I felt empowered! I felt amazing for making the right choice and I could feel Jesus smiling down on me! And do you know what else happened??? God did change my heart towards that other woman and I now call her one of my closest, dearest friends!
EXAMPLE 2: I was at a park one day with a new friend. She was new to our church and I'd asked her to hang out. At some point, in casual conversation, she asked about a woman from our church, wanting to know where that woman's husband was (the woman had 2 kids, but her husband was "away"). I wrestled internally because while this wasn't my secret to tell, it was technically public knowledge, but the other side of it was that it was a potentially hurtful secret. In the end, it just didn't feel right telling her that secret. I didn't want her to form any negative opinions about that other woman or her husband (who were both members of my church AND MY FRIENDS!). So I simply said, "I don't really feel comfortable telling you about that situation, but ______(the wife) is super sweet and if you ever want to talk to her about it you can." Once again I felt God smiling down on me and it felt so good to protect my friend's secret. And another blessing that came out of that is the "new woman" I was hanging out with is now one of my very best friends and one thing I love about our friendship is how we don't gossip. We are just two Christian women who love to hang out and don't feel the need to slander other women! :)
"Wherefore comfort yourselves together, and edify one another, even as also ye do." ~1 THESSALONIANS 5:11
EXAMPLE 3: One time a friend told me a secret about a guy we both knew. I cringed as she told me because this was a man I respected within the church and I didn't want to know about the sins from his past. It was something from his past and not who he is now. I didn't encourage her as she talked and eventually the conversation went cold. Still, I couldn't un-know that secret once she told me and as much as I hate to admit it, it did change my opinion of that man. However, although I couldn't stop her from telling me, I decided I would never tell a soul. It was a sin from his past and it was his secret to tell. To this day I haven't even told my husband because I don't want it to change my husband's opinion of that man.
We 're all sinners and I for one am so grateful God doesn't throw my past mistakes back in my face!
"As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us." ~PSALM 103:12
Please don't think for a second I've got it all figured out or that I don't still have slipups, but these things have helped me and I hope this post will help you. Thanks for reading! :)
Disclaimer: Sadly, I feel the need to clarify, for those who love to stir the pot, this blog post DOESN'T include warning someone about a potentially dangerous person. I am only referring to gossiping among friends and family that is nothing more than slander. And you all know which secrets I'm talking about. Secrets that CAN be shared are positive ones like birth announcements and such (after the parents have shared), or announcements to inform someone of something that isn't slanderous, such as someone being sick and in the hospital and things like that. And of course this doesn't include secrets about someone hurting you. You should always ask for help if you are being hurt! ALWAYS!