It’s 3:33 am and I’m wide awake.
Stress will do that do you. It robs you of both peace and much needed sleep.
Of course, I’m old, and that’s certainly a part of the equation here. Apparently, sleep is for the young. Earlier in my life, I had to set two alarms. One to rouse me to consciousness, and the other set on my dresser to roust me from bed. Now, I can’t remember the last time an alarm woke me.
So, I’m up. Praying. Reading. Writing. It’s what I do. This is how I deal with the sometimes unpleasant realities of this life.
I cry out to God.
I read His Word and anything else within reach that inspires.
And I write, because writing is therapeutic for me.
This morning, the frustration is deep.
I’m struggling (again) with questions that haunt me.
What’s it going to take to change this situation and these people?
How can I help them understand?
At the core of my struggle is something that destroys relationships—gossip.
What an ugly word. It just sounds evil, like a snake, gosssssippp.
And I hate it.
We gossip when we share information or opinions about someone else (true or not) in a negative and critical way. As one dictionary definition put it, "Gossip is to circulate unfavorable reports."
I despise it because gossip stirs up conflict. It separates close friends. It fuels the fires of disagreement leading to discord rather than peace. (Proverbs 16:28, 26:20)
Solomon, in his wisdom, once wrote, “There are six things the Lord hates, seven that are detestable to him.” Guess what number seven is? “A person who sows discord and stirs up conflict among brothers and sisters.”
I get it.
God hates gossip because of what it does to relationships. It destroys people.
When Person A has a problem with Person B but goes to Person C to talk about the problem and Person C has absolutely no authority or power to change the situation or Person B, that’s gossip.
For example, when someone has an issue with someone they work with and they go to a co-worker who can’t change anything about that situation rather than going to the source (Person B) or to their boss (who probably can change things), that’s gossip.
And it hurts. It damages everyone.
Here’s how a gossip feels and how they justify gossiping.
“I just needed to vent.”
“The person I probably should talk to scares me. I’m afraid things will only get worse if I talk to her.”
“I was only trying to get some support and input so that I could figure out what to do.”
“I’m just sharing my feelings with a friend.”
What, do you think God is thinking? “Oh my Me (OMM), I had no idea you were that upset and hurt. By all means, gossip! This is one of those times when your sin is okay.”
Hmmm . . .
When you or I talk to any person about someone else in a bad way—in the absence of the person who is being discussed—and the person we’re speaking with can’t change anything, that’s destructive gossip, and it’s selfish.
You might feel better, you might feel vindicated, you might even feel loved, but it’s wrong. Sinful. Destructive. You are sowing discord in the community, and did I mention that God hates it when that happens?
The only thing you accomplished is that now Person C is also ticked off at Person B (your “offender”) and nothing, absolutely nothing, was resolved.
You just “feel better.” Sort of.
Okay, gossip is a problem. What’s the solution?
To begin with, see gossip for what it is—evil. It never fixes anything or anyone. Never. So stop it. Repent. Confess your sin and cry out to God for help.
Then, decide to grow up and become a mature follower of Jesus who is learning to control his or her tongue. Gossip is a sign of spiritual immaturity. It is a spiritual problem.
James was painfully clear when he said, “If you put yourself on a pedestal, thinking you have become a role model in all things religious, but you can’t control your mouth, then think again. Your mouth exposes your heart, and your religion is useless” (James 1:26, The Voice).
I was about eight years old the first time I heard the words, “Grow up!” from a little red-headed girl I’d hit in the face with a spitball. Those words hurt (a lot more than my spitball hurt her). I was embarrassed, but you know what, she was right, I needed to grow up.
It might be painful to hear, but we all need to hear it at times: God wants us to grow up.
Finally, value healthy relationships even more than you value your personal feelings. It’s not about you or me. It’s about us. We matter. Our unity matters. In fact, Jesus said the world will judge whether or not God sent Him based on our unity and love for one another.
Frankly, this is sobering.
The world is watching, and sadly, too often they have seen Christians demeaning and despising each other rather than as a loving community of unity.
I care about this issue of gossip because I care about people. I care about the people I lead and work with. I care about the people in my church and family. I care about the lost who already use too many excuses for their unbelief, and I don’t want to give them any more reasons because we can’t control our tongues.
Gossip destroys, but life and healing come through honest communication with the right person in the right way at the right time.
We have got to get this figured out. It matters. A lot.
Over the top of my computer screen, I see out the window. It’s dark, of course, but sitting on the hill behind my house the moon is bright and full. All is quiet. Peaceful.
That’s when the Holy Spirit drips into my soul, “Reflect the Son. Be His light. Illuminate the darkness by being full of Me. Don’t give up on yourself. Don’t give up on people. Speak the truth in love, and trust Me to work in the hearts of My people.”
Then through tears, I whisper, “Oh God, I will. I trust You. Who else can I turn to for help? I am desperate for more of You.”
There it is. Peace. I’m ready for the day now.
Don’t let even one rotten word seep out of your mouths. Instead, offer only fresh words that build others up when they need it most. That way your good words will communicate grace to those who hear them. It’s time to stop bringing grief to God’s Holy Spirit; you have been sealed with the Spirit, marked as His own for the day of rescue. Banish bitterness, rage and anger, shouting and slander, and any and all malicious thoughts—these are poison. Instead, be kind and compassionate. Graciously forgive one another just as God has forgiven you.
Ephesians 4:29-32 (VOICE)