Jennifer arrives at youth group early. Her friend Samantha is already there. They have time to fill, and they fill it with talking. Lots of talking. They talk about the youth pastor and his wife. They really love both of them, and that’s what they say to each other . . . mostly. But they also talk about some of the things they wish they’d do differently. They talk about who comes to youth group regularly and who always seems to have an excuse not to come. They talk about that girl who came forward and asked for prayer last week because she’s pregnant. “Can you believe that?” they say. “We should pray for her” they nod. Soon enough, it’s time for youth group to start. Their lesson just happens to be on the subject of gossip. In small discussion groups they look at verses like:
“A dishonest man spreads strife, and a whisperer separates close friends” (Prov. 16:28).
“Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear” (Eph. 4:29).
“And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God” (Rom. 1:28–30).
You’re smart girls. You can see where this is going, but the Truth somehow seemed to whiz right over Jennifer and Samantha’s heads. They heard what God’s Word says about gossip, but did not feel compelled to change the way that they talked or repent of how they had been talking just a few moments before.
The truth is, I’m just like Jennifer and Samantha. So many times, I gossip about others and justify that what I am doing isn’t really gossip. I can spot a gossip because I am one. But some friends and I have been doing a Bible study on transforming our speech. I’ve started praying for God to transform my speech. He has answered that prayer by showing me four things that gossips tell themselves. (Guilty!) Here they are.
It’s not gossip if it’s true.
Somewhere along the line I got the idea that if I knew something was true, I was free to share it often. But God’s Word never differentiates between “true” gossip and “false” gossip.
God’s Word never differentiates between “true” gossip and “false” gossip.
A counselor friend once said it to me this way, “We don’t tell each other’s stories.” That’s a commitment she has made because she listens to other people’s stories for a living, but I think it’s a wise guideline for each of us. Tell your own story often. Talk about what’s going on in your world. Share your own experiences. Talk about what God is teaching you. But let other people tell their stories.
Are you anticipating awkward silence? It’s true that we will have a lot less to talk about if we refuse to tell other people’s stories. But that’s okay!
Proverbs 17:28 says, “Even a fool who keeps silent is considered wise; when he closes his lips, he is deemed intelligent.”
They didn’t tell me not to tell.
Several years ago I wrote a deeply personal letter to a friend. It was a positive letter. I didn’t write about any deep dark secrets but my intention was that it stay between me and my friend. I guess I should have said that in the letter because my friend was tasked with giving a devotion at church, and she read the entire letter to the congregation. I heard about it through the grapevine, and I was crushed. It’s true that I didn’t tell my friend not to share that letter with others, but her decision to take something so private and share it publicly made me feel violated and embarrassed.
Assume what others tell you was shared in confidence.
Get in the habit of assuming that what others tell you was shared in confidence. Or, if your friend tells you something that you think you need to share with someone else (such as her parents or youth pastor) ask for permission. Try something simple like, “Is it okay with you if I talk to my mom about this?” Even better, tell her you will go with her when she talks to someone who can help.
“Whoever goes about slandering reveals secrets, but he who is trustworthy in spirit keeps a thing covered” (Pro. 11:13).
I’m just telling you so you can pray for her.
Simon (a.k.a Peter) was a hot mess. He had left his family fishing business to follow Jesus, but he was a bit bipolar about it. Sometimes he was a super follower who served Jesus with his whole life. Sometimes he ran and hid. He had a big fight with his best friends, and Jesus had to step in and intervene. There was plenty to pray about when it came to Simon, and yet when we see how Jesus prayed for him, we get a clue about the best way to pray for each other.
“But I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail” (Luke 22:32).
Jesus didn’t feel the need to pray for every detail of Simon’s situation. He prayed for strength and faith. These are the things we need most.
Instead of giving elaborate details of a friend’s life when asking for prayer, try these approaches instead.
- Pray with your friend. If you know someone who is struggling go to her and ask if you can pray with her. Get together often and pray.
- Pray for your friend. Are you praying for the friend you’re talking about during your personal prayer time? If not, start there.
- Ask for faith and strength. Whatever your friend is going through she needs faith that God will come through for her and strength to make it through. Instead of praying about all the details of the situation, pray like Jesus. “Lord, I pray that my friend will have strong faith that will not fail.”
“When you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him” (Matt. 6:7–8).
I couldn’t help myself.
I never intend to gossip. But often I find myself in a situation where I can’t seem to keep the words about others from pouring off my tongue. Apparently, I’m not the only one.
James 3:8 says, “But no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.”
The truth is, because of our sinful hearts, resisting gossip is difficult, if not impossible on our own. That’s why we need Jesus to help us.
If you identify with any of the things gossips tell themselves from the list above, would you join me in asking Jesus to tame your tongue? Go a step further and ask Him, “What lies have I been telling myself in order to keep sinning in the area of my speech.”
I’d love to hear what He says to your heart. Leave me a comment about it below.
PS: That Bible study that I mentioned is, Conversation Peace by Mary Kassian. I’ll be giving a copy away for tomorrow’s Freebie Friday! Be sure to check back for your chance to win.