Confession: This past week I repeated something that was not my place to share.
But hey, don’t worry. I had “good intentions.” (Insert extreme sarcasm.)
At least, at the time, I thought I did. I even used the words, “Between the two of us…”
But we all know how that goes.
The only time we can control our words is before they leave our mouths.
The saddest part? I thought my intentions were pure. (Ack.) I was responding to a comment about another person’s character. I thought my response would diffuse the lies being spread around. (Frown.)
And, as soon as the words were out of my mouth, I realized I had just added fuel to the fire. (Bigger frown.)
Even if my words were not repeated, does it really matter? Gossip is gossip. I should have kept my mouth shut.
Words not spoken in love will bring death. Death to reputations, careers, hopes, dreams, relationships, families…perhaps even to a very life.
We shouldn’t fool ourselves. Even if no one else hears, God hears. And, we always reap what we sow.
Here’s the thing about passing judgement:
Unless we have walked in the other person’s shoes—we just don’t know the truth.
We don’t know another’s heart. We don’t know their intentions. We don’t know their history.
Even if we think we know, we don’t.
I’m sure those who heard the gossip about my moral failure in 1989 were quick to pass judgement. I made a
poor choice big mistake and there were consequences for my actions.
The hardest part? No one knew what was going on in my personal life. Or, in my heart.
Nor did anyone bother to ask. (Not that it was their job. But, honestly, I really would have appreciated it at the time. Shame, loneliness, and condemnation are a toxic cocktail.)
If people were truly concerned about my well-being—or more importantly—my salvation, they could have talked directly to me. (Preaching to myself here. Oh, how quickly I forget!)
Gossip and judgement go hand in hand. And, let’s be real here:
Judgement and gossip do not lead us to the heart of Jesus.
But they can lead to shame for the person being talked about.
From my personal experience, I can honestly report:
Shame does not inspire genuine repentance.
As I processed through my latest blunder, I uncovered another hard (but very important) truth:
When I feel justified judging another’s character, I am naively assuming my own innocence.
I presume to know what’s right for another person. Which, therefore, puts me in a very dangerous position—assuming God needs me to define what is right—or wrong—for another person.
We all know what ‘they’ say about assumptions. Perhaps a less offensive way of saying it is “When I’m pointing my finger at another person, the other four are pointing back at me.” (OK, Jesus said it better with His speck and plank parable.)
As my pastor says, my job is to align my life with the true Plumb Line. (Jesus.) And, allow others to do the same. When I get busy policing others, I miss the areas in my own life needing attention.
Yes, Scripture directs us to call each other out on sin.
But let’s be honest here:
Gossip and judgement are sin.
If I have concerns about another, I am to first go directly to them. (Not others.) When I share my observations, I am to do so with humility and love.
I’m so thankful God gave me the Holy Spirit to lovingly convict my heart. He knows when I’m ready to receive correction, either through His Word to me, or through someone in my life. He sees my mistakes and weakness, and He loves me through them.
I can therefore trust Him to do the same for others.
Shame? Judgement? Gossip? They will never make my character more Christlike. Nor are they going to lead another to redemption.
Before I open my mouth, I really need to check my motives.
- Have I brought my concerns first to God?
- Has this particular person invited me to speak into their lives?
- Will my words bring life or death?
- Do I feel peace in my heart about what I am about to say?
- Are my words going to make another person look bad so I can look good?
- If I am speaking about another person, why am I not speaking directly to them?
Sometimes we find ourselves in a conversation we didn’t expect to have. Sometimes we think our intentions are good. Sometimes we think before we speak.
I know. Believe me. I know. That’s what happened to me this past week.
When I heard the latest gossip going around church (yes, church!) about a sweet, young woman, my heart broke. Anger rose. I started to judge those who were spreading the gossip.
As soon as I pointed my prideful, little finger in judgement, conviction rose within me. Checking myself, I found my four other fingers pointing back at me. (Guilty.)
Oops. I must have been blinded by that big ol’, GIGANTIC plank in my eye! (Ouch.)
I messed up. I thought my intentions were good.
Did my words bring life?
No. Not at all.
Sure, I meant well. I actually told the truth. But it didn’t need to be shared. This person didn’t need to know about the incident. (Sigh.)
As I processed the interaction, I responded with gossip because I had felt judged. (She shared a concern about another; and, as a result, I felt like a bad parent. Ugh. Those stinkin’ vulnerabilities!)
My desire to be liked and accepted, to make a new friend, knee-jerked me into acting like a complete jerk.
In doing so, I pulled others into my own web of sin. (Crazy how a short conversation can go south so quickly!)
My response? I went back to where I should have started. I said a prayer, took a deep breath, confessed my mistake, and apologized.
I expected her to get upset with me. She had every right. (And, honestly, I probably would have been upset myself.)
Grace! She forgave me and showered me with grace.
Those of us who have been victims of gossip and judgement? We need grace (both to give and receive.)
Those of us who allow our insecurities and self-righteousness (me!) to gossip and judge? We need grace, too.
Sweet Friends, we all need grace.
Let’s stop spreading gossip and start spreading some good, old-fashioned grace.
Because, if we’re all honest, we’ll admit there is nothing good that comes from judgement and gossip.
Photo credit: Amy Jo Ivey / Downtown Portland / June 2015