Recently I spent an extended amount of time with some friends at their house. I love these people very much but at the end of my time there my spirit felt shredded and my soul down in the dumps. Why? Because of the way they spoke about other people.
Whenever they talked about a person that was not present with us in the room, inevitably it turned into a litany of that person’s faults:
“He is a know-it-all…”
“She doesn’t have to work for a living…”
“If only that teen knew the value of money…”
“He’s so vain and is caught up in all the latest fashion…”
“Those two don’t know the first thing about parenting…”
On and on it went. After each conversation, I felt bogged down in a sea of negativity and could not easily shake the dark, heavy cloud that had settled around me.
I also wondered what they said about me when I was absent from their company.
The Harm of Gossip
Let no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only what is useful for building up, as there is need, so that your words may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with which you were marked with a seal for the day of redemption. Put away from you all bitterness and wrath and anger and wrangling and slander, together with all malice, and be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you.
In the Old Testament book of Sirach are these sobering words:
Curse the gossips and the double-tongued, for they destroy the peace of many.
Slander…has destroyed strong cities, and overturned the houses of the great.
Most of us know that gossip is not good. But what can we do about our unruly tongues? How can we curb this vice?
3 Filters to Use
Amy Carmichael, a lay missionary in India who rescued abandoned and abused children, taught her orphans the importance of guarding their speech. She gave them 3 sieves to run their thoughts through before speaking:
- Is it true?
- Is it kind?
- Is it necessary?
Filter #1 — is what I am about to say true? I first need to weed out the lies, deceptions, and half-truths from my speech.
Filter #2 — is what I am about to say kind? After the first sifting, I am left with what is true, but is it kind? Reflecting back on Ephesians 4:29-30, am I speaking “the good things people need to hear” or am I grieving the Holy Spirit?
Filter #3 — is what I am about to say necessary? It may be true, and not unkind, but is it even necessary to say? I don’t have to repeat everything I hear. I won’t burst if I refrain from sharing the juicy tidbit I know (even though it may feel like I will).
Set a Guard at My Lips
The psalmist, probably having just blown it in this area, pleads in Psalm 141:3, “Set a guard over my mouth, Lord; keep watch over the door of my lips.”
That is a great prayer to pray — a good one to add to our daily repertoire.
Doesn’t this dark, cruel world need more light and love? Let’s “give grace to those who hear” us by watching what we say about one another.