I have had people come to me for help sorting out some distress and then talked in ‘code’, leaving out significant aspects of their distress. They are not wanting to be guilty of slandering another soul.
Have you heard sermons regarding gossip and felt convicted?
There are a plethora of references that pop up when one types the word ‘gossip’ into a topical concordance. One statement was written by saint Paul in 2 Corinthians 12:20.
I am afraid that when I come I may not find you as I want you to be… I fear that there may be discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, slander, gossip, arrogance and disorder.2 Corinthians 12:20
What makes is ok to talk with another person regarding a situation? Especially when the conversation is regarding a person that is causing you angst? When is it appropriate to bring another person into the mix? When is it crossing the line into gossip or slander?
Wives typically talk with their husbands regarding their days and how they are doing with it. Friends share with friends. People talk with their partners, pastors or counselors. Parents dialogue regarding what is happening with their children.
If we do not have anyone to talk with, the situation and our interpretation continues to go around and around in our minds, along with our mis-perceptions and our wrong interpretations. We may need a third party with greater objectivity.
Often we do not want a greater objectivity, but desire someone to ‘be on our side’. Someone to think what we think and be upset with those whom we are upset with. We put no thought into how we might be involved in an act of destroying another person’s dignity and honor.
If we choose the ‘wrong’ people to talk with, we likely have them join us in our wrong interpretations, cementing our mis-perceptions in place while fueling the fire that destroys peace, both personally and inter-personally.
From my perspective, it is important to stay aware of the subtle (and sometimes not so subtle) justifications and ways that we ‘color’ the person we are talking about. It is important to choose someone who has the maturity to hear us well, being able to keep the other person’s dignity and honor in view, while being able to acknowledge any accuracy in our perception. It is not ‘taking sides’, but being able to see the full picture, acknowledging the areas in both person’s lives that are both wonderful and lacking.
Cultivating a stance of self awareness and personal justification is a vital ingredient in the equation.
We are told that confessing our faults to one another can have a healing benefit.
Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.James 5:16
The importance of vulnerability and authenticity is vital if we are to pursue the goal of growth towards wholeness. But in and of themselves, vulnerability and authenticity can be deadly towards loving relationships and our own development into loving individuals. It must be tempered with grace and love, for ourselves and the other party.
We need people in our circle of community who have the maturity to remain stable in their own stance of love- keeping in mind God’s perspective regarding each person involved in a situation. Those who are skilled in separating wounds and bad behavior from the true identity of a person. Those who retain compassion for the person who is reacting poorly out of their own wounded-ness and blindness, while also keeping compassion for those being hurt by the poor behavior.
I am sincerely grateful for the few in my life whom I can be freely open with, disclosing the not pretty reactions and attitudes that are within me. They help me be open to a stance of “Search me, Oh God, and know my heart. Try me, and see what kind of hurtful ways are within me. Then lead me in the way that leads to wholeness.” [Psalms 139: 23, 24]
They know me well, know my history and why I struggle in the ways I do, and hold me in a space of compassion and love. They enter into my journey in ways that validate and comfort me, reassuring me that my struggle is worthy of attention. Thus, they open the space further for me to look at the person or situation that is upsetting me, so that I can move back into a place of less reactivity and greater compassion myself.
Gossip, slander, besmirching the reputation of another person is never ok with our God who desires to clothe us with dignity and honor. Sweeping evil and wrong under the rug of darkness so that it cannot be addressed and cleansed is also ultimately destructive.
May we grow in wisdom as we choose whom we can interact with, bringing God’s light of love and compassion into our own hearts as well as those of others. And in this environment may each individual grow into the fullness of all God desires!