“Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.” – Ephesians 4:29
Let me just say, before I even dig in. I hate this topic. I hate it for all the same reasons that I am passionate about it. It’s uncomfortable, it’s gross, it’s never NOT convicting because 90% of us are guilty of it on SOME level. This topic is one of the biggest ones I find us as Christian women having a hard time admitting we struggle with & it’s insanely dangerous because it’s functions like poison, affecting everything. So before we start assuming that I just felt like getting all preachy, let me tell you that I would rather do 12 loads of laundry than sit in front of my keyboard over a topic like gossip. I have been guilty of partaking in it, initiating it, and I have been on the painful side of it.
In the last 24 hours, I have been a part of more than one conversation from Christian women who don’t even know one another or live in the same state for that matter, where each of them has shared either hurt over losing a friendship(s) due to someone else’s ill feelings about them being “shared” with a mutual friend and having that mutual friend back off of their friendship (what is it the kids call it? Ghosting someone?) OR sharing heartache over watching two friends lose a close friendship because of one gossiping about the other and it coming to light, and then a lack of forgiveness taking over. And for anyone reading this who may know me in real life…neither of these stories belong to me. There’s zero fabrication happening here, THIS IS A REAL ISSUE FOR US. And it’s one that I am realizing we have all grown rather complacent with. We excuse gossip and slander quicker than anything else. We call what we’re doing “Christian venting” ….or we say that we’re pursuing “wise council”. And don’t me wrong, we NEED wise counsel – women left alone with their thoughts and hurts are dangerous, so we have to pursue balance in that, BUT if these vent sessions don’t make their way back to the person you’re actually talking about, it’s gossip. If the wisdom you’re receiving on the other end isn’t pointing you to having a hard chat with the person you’re discussing, it’s gossip. If the woman on the other end joins in on the “venting” about said woman – because she too has been hurt by them – it’s unhealthy, and it’s gossip. And let me just be real with you for a second, some of the most irritating and refining conversations I’ve ever had have looked like me laying all of my struggle with another person out on the table – my genuine hurt, all my reasons for being in pain at the hands of this other person – and having either a trusted friend or a leader say “ok, and what do you have to own in this? What yours?” followed by “Have you tried to have this conversation with THEM? Have you said everything you’re saying now to them?”
I mean…just by reading that text I’m sure you can imagine it’s not a really good feeling, to lay your hurt out and find sharpening on the other end – but it’s good for us. It always stings at first, there’s no feelings of vindication in that. Our flesh CRAVES the affirmation of our pain, we want someone to join in and stroke our egos and agree with the “injustice” thats been done against us, and the enemy whispers over and over again that we are deserving of that. And I am equally guilty here ladies. In my deepest places of hurt and pain, I want someone who loves me to affirm all the ways that I was wronged, but I can’t grow from those kinds of affirmations & after having done it both ways, I much prefer the sharpening, even if it leaves me feeling lonely at first.
When I said before that gossip functions like poison, that wasn’t just my dramatic touch in a line to make it more appealing to your ears. It’s the honest truth. Try and think of the last time you were a part of a conversation and either listened to someone else gossip about another person, or you engaged in said gossip. Now try to remember the way that made you feel, think about the feelings you had as you walked away, try and find all the ways it affected your day or even your perspective following that conversation. Think back to the way it made you feel the next time you saw the person who had been gossiped about, the way it shifted how saw them. Try and think about all the new opinions you formed about them, and maybe even the way you then treated them differently (possibly without even realizing it) because of your new-found perspective. Now try and think of the way they probably felt it, the way they probably walked away from that interaction or experience with you and your new found perspective, and either felt talked about or rejected. Think about all the ways the enemy probably then used that inside of THEIR minds to whisper a million lies. I mean, it might feel like I’m getting carried away here….and maybe you’re going “Ok, get to the point.” But my point is just THAT. Gossip NEVER ends in your conversations, ever. It is the much messier of the sins we commit, it’s like cancer – it’s born and it spreads through the body in a deadly manner. And when you’re known for talking about others, women automatically see you as unsafe, and as the hands and feet of Jesus on this earth I just can’t see how this is something we can afford to not heal from.
Because of the heaviness of this topic and the high level of pain that is tied into this, I wanted to reach out and ask other women their thoughts. To give them the space to speak candidly on the way that gossip has made them feel as grown adults. First, let me say that I have never ever had such a high response count to any question like the one I got for this. And what I found was that the resounding common phrase in each answer was “I no longer feel safe.” One woman said: “If someone I trust can hurt me so badly, I automatically feel like I can’t trust anyone.” She later went on to say in the same statement that she cringes at the idea of being vulnerable now because she’s afraid of being gossiped about. Ladies, hear this….we are using our own mouths to make our sisters feel unsafe in the world, and we’re justifying it! Can you just take a moment to soak that in? And here’s where I challenge you, if you were to be really honest with yourself, how many women would you say that you owe an apology to right now for either making them the center of gossip, or partaking in a conversation where someone else made them the center? How many women have you made feel unsafe? I can tell you right now, my answer is NOT zero.
We live in a world where there are kindness campaigns and banners and quotes and rally’s. And they’re not all designed to influence children to be kind, many of these are because we reside in a culture where the adults need to be reminded to be nice to one another. That in itself speaks volumes, and as women of God we have to stop pretending like we are above reproach here. Stop imagining all the women who probably need to read this, and start praying about what parts are for you. What does God have for you on this topic? I mean, let’s be honest….we’re women and even more WE’RE HUMAN. Therefore, we’re overly critical, and opinionated, manipulative, and arrogant, we lack self-control and discernment often times, we gossip, we lie, we condone poor behavior for the sake of keeping relationships and not causing waves, or we judge others harshly for the same issues that we give ourselves “grace” for. We are FLAWED – there is no denying that, but we are called to higher so we don’t get to stay there. We don’t get to drag others through the mud, and throw a Christian bumper sticker on it, calling it venting. We are called to higher. Ladies, are you with me? We all struggle with this, none of us are free from blame. None.of.us. My husband pointed out to me this morning “This isn’t an issue just among women.” And we need to get to a place where we are eating humble pie for breakfast lunch and dinner, rather than indulging in hypocrisy every chance we get, because that’s more comfortable. We need to pursue relationships with women who will refine us. Women who don’t run from our sharp edges, who love us in spite of them, but who don’t let us continue walking around cutting others with them…ya feel me? We need to be teachable, willing to be challenged without jumping to our defenses. We need to know that though our junk looks different from our sister next door – it’s still ugly, and so we need to keep our mouths closed about her dirty laundry and instead humbly ask the Lord to help us wash our own. And when we are struggling to do that, we need women in our lives who know our shortcomings, and aren’t afraid to say “This isn’t a healthy conversation.” Get women in your life who love you way too much to let you live in sin, and who love the Lord even more. And even bigger than that, hold your actions up to the light of God’s word. Because yes, we need wise counsel, but even the good Christian women in your life are imperfect, but there’s no flaw in His word or his instructions to us. Not one. And as it turns out, he has plenty to say on this subject – I guess he knew we would struggle with it.
“He who conceals a transgression seeks love, But he who repeats a matter separates intimate friends” -Proverbs 16:28
“He who goes about as a slanderer reveals secrets, Therefore do not associate with a gossip.” – Proverbs 20:19
“He who goes about as a talebearer reveals secrets, But he who is trustworthy conceals a matter.” – Proverbs 11:13
“Set a guard, O LORD, over my mouth; Keep watch over the door of my lips.” – Psalm 141:3
“Whoever secretly slanders his neighbor, him I will destroy; No one who has a haughty look and an arrogant heart will I endure.” – Psalm 101:5
Lastly, I think it needs to be said that not every gossip girl looks like Regina George, so we need to take the blinders off and quit pretending as if that’s the case. Not all those gossiping or slandering another are doing it with malicious intent, is the truth. Quite frequently our gossip is birthed from a place of hurt, or rejection, bitterness or insecurity. Often the honest intent behind our gossip is not to malign another, or cause division…but our intentions are not what affect the outcome, it’s our actions. It’s not what we say we meant to do that we are held accountable for, it’s what we ACTUALLY DID. And I would even have to take a left turn here and say the same thing goes for our apologies. Ladies can we please stop looking at our hurting sisters and saying “I’m sorry you were hurt.” No no, how about “IM SORRY THAT I HURT YOU.” Own your ish. Do it, because there’s freedom and healing on the other side for the both of you! Acknowledging someone else’s pain, and your hand in causing it is one of the most honest and humble things you can do, and literally has the ability to breathe life into another person. I have seen this play true in my own life, and the apologies that were owed to women around me – but I had waited far too long to give because I was prideful. After a year of waiting on an apology that she deserved to receive in the moment she brought the insult to light, I had a family member say to me “I can’t tell you how much my heart needed to hear that, thank you.” In the same conversation she told me that her body literally felt lighter. Friends. When we choose humility, we have the ability to change the atmosphere around us. Unfortunately the same is to be said for when we choose our pride instead. As image bearers of Christ, we cannot afford to stay in this place of allowing ourselves to be a Christian culture that is comfortable with gossip, we cannot afford to rob our sisters of feeling safe in the presence of other women who love the Lord, we cannot afford to represent the blood of Jesus like this to women who aren’t believers. There is far too much at risk.
“But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.” – James 4:6