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Its Only Words
Proverbs 16:28 NLT
"A troublemaker plants seeds of strife; gossip separates the best of
In Today's Christian Woman, Ramona Cramer Tucker writes about a moment
in time that her friend, Michelle wishes she could relive. After a business
lunch in a restaurant, Michelle and Sharon went to the Lady's Room to powder
their noses. While they were fixing their makeup, their small talk took
a sinister turn into gossip. Michelle and Sharon began lambasting a co-worker
that drove them both crazy. For a full two minutes, Michelle reamed her.
The quiet that followed was interrupted by the familiar sound of a bathroom
stall door opening. Glancing into the mirror they watched in horror as
an embarrassed, angry, red-faced co-worker walked out. According to Tucker,
"Michelle and Beth stared at each other in embarrassed panic. Michelle
knew she couldn't take her words back. In the instant their eyes met, Beth
fled out the door."
Michelle never saw Beth again. Beth never came back to work. She resigned.
Tucker writes, "While other staff members cheered wheat seemed to be good
news, Michelle felt miserable. She wished she had talked to Beth instead
of talking about Beth." (LE SP 2002, p. 69)
What side of that story did you immediately relate to? Michelle's or
Beth's? Or both? Now I don't want to waste anybody's time this morning,
so if you don't relate to either side-- if you don't have a struggle with
gossip yourself, or if you've never been hurt by gossipers--you're free
to go. But if you've found yourself being a gossip or if you've ever felt
the sting from someone gossiping about you, then dig in because today's
messages could change your life. This morning we'll deal with the problem
from Michelle's perceptive-the problem of being a gossip, tonight we'll
look at it from Beth's perspective-how to handle being gossiped about.
So what's the big deal about a little gossip? Our text makes is fairly
clear, doesn't it? Gossip destroys friendships. Another Proverbs, one found
in chapter 20 verse 19 warns against even associating with a gossip. "He
who goes about as a slanderer reveals secrets, Therefore do not associate
with a gossip." (NASB) Gossips destroy their lives, the lives of their
friends and the lives of the people they talk about.
What's the problem with gossip? I can think of a couple more things.
One, it sows seeds of doubt in another person's mind and two, it mutilates
someone else's character. The scripture says, "a false witness who pours
out lies, a person who sows discord among brothers." (Proverbs 6:19 NLT)
When I gossip to you, I either plant a negative idea in your mind about
someone else or I confirm a suspicion you're having. Even if you argue
with me and tell me I'm wrong about someone, my words will linger in your
mind and create some doubt. And if I involve 3 or 4 other people in my
gossip, before you know it, we've become a majority opinion. Our gossip
can become the accepted sentiment of someone's character. Proverbs 18:8
says, "What dainty morsels rumors are--but they sink deep into one's heart."
(NLT) Gossip is a big deal-our words sink deep into someone else's heart.
Suddenly, a passing thought becomes someone's reality. I hate it when people
trivialize and minimize my existence by doing that to me, don't you hate
it when they do it to you?
Sometimes it doesn't even take outright gossip to sow discord-it can
be a raised eyebrow or words left unspoken. About a decade ago I had a
secretary that had a real problem with gossip. I'd written her up twice
for inappropriate gossip while on the job and warned her that a third offense
would lead to her termination. I was doing my best to follow employment
law as I understood it, but in retrospect, I see that my discipline really
hurt me. Let me illustrate. One late afternoon I got a call from one of
my deacons telling me about a conversation he'd had with her that morning
when he tried to get a hold of me. I was in a meeting across town and didn't
make it into the office 'til late morning. Even though she knew where I
was, she told him, "Oh he hasn't come to work yet today," when he asked
to speak to me, leaving the impression that I was out goofing off. What
she said was accurate, but the impression she left wasn't truthful.
Not only does gossip sow discord, it also assassinates a person's character.
Ezekiel 22:9 says, "Slanderous men have been in you for the purpose of
shedding blood, and in you they have eaten at the mountain shrines. In
your midst they have committed acts of lewdness." (NASB) Shedding blood?
Man that's strong language, but that is exactly what our words do with
a person's character. In Psalm 31:13 David said, "I have heard the many
rumors about me, and I am surrounded by terror. My enemies conspire against
me, plotting to take my life." (NLT) David certainly felt threatened.
So what's the cure for gossip? Let me suggest a few things from scripture,
first, lighten up a bit! Remember, everybody-including you-makes mistakes.
Proverbs 17:9 "Disregarding another person's faults preserves love; telling
about them separates close friends." (NLT) Even the best we have to offer
is flawed. Next time you watch the Best Picture from the 1959 Academy Awards,
Ben Hur, look for the tracks during the chariot races left behind by the
camera trucks. Or when you put the '89 winner, Driving Miss Daisy in the
DVD player, pause the picture when the Alabama police questions the driver.
Look real close and you'll notice he is wearing a Georgia patch on his
sleeve. And more recently, the 2001 winner, A Beautiful Mind has scene
where the Nobel Prize speech is given, on the podium is the word Noble
instead of Nobel. (http://www.freshministry.org/illustrations.html)
Learn to overlook other people's faults-give them a rest will you? Nobody
is perfect. Why is it that we are quick to overlook our own faults while
noticing other peoples?
The second thing you can do is, well, just stop doing it! Proverbs 26:20
says, "Fire goes out for lack of fuel, and quarrels disappear when gossip
stops." (NLT) What I try to do is imagine the person I'm talking about
standing in the room, and if I start to feel uncomfortable, then I know
I've crossed the line and have begun disruptive, destructive gossip. Really,
who knows, they might just be within earshot, like Beth was with Michelle.
According to Tucker, "the situation between Beth & Michelle happened
five years ago, Michelle's never forgotten it. She tried to reach Beth
several times by phone, then wrote her a letter of apology. Beth never
responded. Michelle says she learned her lesson about loose lips the hard
way. What's worse is that Michelle's a Christian, and Beth, to her knowledge,
isn't." (LE SP 2002, p. 69)
So what do we do when we've caught ourselves gossiping? We repent. More
tapes from the days of Richard Nixon were released the first week of March
2002. On one tape, Billy Graham was heard telling President Richard Nixon
that Jews had a "stranglehold" on the American media, which needed to be
broken because it was controlling the country.
When the tapes were made public, Graham apologized for his remarks.
He did not deny them, but said he could not recall making them. Though
many people were shocked, no one considers Billy Graham a bigot. Most people
will forgive Graham because of his spotless record. However, syndicated
columnist Cal Thomas says this 30-year-old example is a reminder that "Political
power can be corrupting and can even seduce the clergy."
In his commentary, Thomas asks an important question. "Who of us has
not made a remark which, if recorded, might prove embarrassing?" He challenges
believers who speak of revival to take their eyes off of Washington, and
focus on personal renewal.
Controlling our speech is a lingering challenge for every person-even
righteous people. Even us. (http://www.freshministry.org/illustrations.html)
How do we respond to being gossiped about?
We respond gently
1 Cor. 4:13 NLT
We respond gently when evil things are said about us. Yet we are treated
like the world's garbage, like everybody's trash--right up to the present
We live a blameless life
1 Peter 3:16 NLT
But you must do this in a gentle and respectful way. Keep your conscience
clear. Then if people speak evil against you, they will be ashamed when
they see what a good life you live because you belong to Christ.
Jesus said, "And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our
debtors." Matthew 6:12NASB
Perhaps you've said it, "I can never forgive you for that."
Actions of yesterday, last week, or even decades ago that are a cause
for retaliation today, and, likely, tomorrow and who knows how much longer.
Maybe forever. The hurt, the anger, the resentment, the hatred run so deep.
Will they ever get past it? Ah, but then how many of us have also been
hurt and have found it hard to forgive?
Divorce, abuse, humiliation, being robbed, getting fired, being taken
advantage of or stabbed in the back. People have hurt us. It seems so hard
to forgive. People tell us, "This is going to consume you. Come on, get
past it. Forgive. Forget."And we reply, "I would like to, but I can't."
Why is that? Why do we find it so hard to forgive? When people wrong us
it is like a debt that they now owe us. You could say they have robbed
us. Love, joy, dignity, respect, and self-worth are things that people
"steal" from us. They do this through abuse, gossip, taking advantage of,
backstabbing, ridiculing, neglecting, cheating, leading us on, rejecting
us and so on.
One theologian, Timothy Keller, suggests that our ability to forgive
depends on the amount of emotional wealth we have. In other words, if I
have a vast reservoir of self-worth or dignity or joy, someone might gossip
about me, verbally assault me or walk out on me and I can say, "That's
okay. I forgive him. There is plenty more where that came from." Thus our
lack of forgiveness is not a matter of stubbornness but of emotional poverty.
This then forces the question: Why am I so emotionally impoverished that
I cannot forgive? What would it take for me to become a forgiving person?
As far as I can see it is simple: Experiencing forgiveness. (http://www.freshministry.org/illustrations.html)