Gossip and Speculation: The Silent Seduction

ConversationAndBubbles“You won’t wear that ring in public, will you?” My mother examined the three modest diamonds set into the new antique-style ring I’d just picked up from the jeweler.

“Why wouldn’t I wear it?” I was surprised by her question. “The stones were gifts from people I love, and it didn’t cost me much to have them set. I can hardly believe I own something so beautiful.”

Dan and I lived on a Christian school administrator’s salary. Groceries, a mortgage, and bills would always beat out jewelry. I’d saved for years to pay to have the gifted diamonds set.

“People know you can’t afford a ring like that. What are they going to think?”

I hoped they’d think I was blessed to own a beautiful ring. I can still remember my outrage at my mother’s question.

But looking back, I understand that my outrage was youthful naivete.As humans with a fallen, sinful nature, we struggle with pride.

One facet of our struggle with pride is judging others for things we know nothing about. 

You know, a family member goes on a cruise that we can’t afford, and we automatically assume they’re spending big bucks (which we judge to be “bad”). We swell with a rush of pride that we don’t spend our money in such frivolous ways and may even drop an offhanded comment or two to a few people about “So-and-So” being off on “another one of their high-priced vacations again.”

You know. Not REAL gossip. Just enough of an insidious dig to cause someone to question their character.

At the heart of gossip lies a killer’s heart: “Did you hear…” Gouge out a little piece of someone’s pride, their reputation, their dignity, their honor.

One.

Little piece.

Of gossip.

At a time.

I became angry the day my mother questioned me about my beautiful ring because I didn’t understand a central truth about my heart.

Like everyone, I sometimes use my tongue to decimate those I claim to love.

I gossip because I put myself first.

I gossip because I want to be noticed.

I gossip because I want to always be right.

I gossip because I don’t love you enough to treat you the way I want to be treated.

I gossip because I’m willing to push you into the mud to make myself feel better than you.

I speculate because pride pushes me to believe the worst about you so I can feel better about myself.

I speculate because it inflates my skewed sense of self-righteousness.

Gossip and speculation are driven by pride–our sinful desire to makes ourselves feel and look better than other people. 

Romans 1:29-30 states God’s opinion of gossip pretty clearly: “They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents.”

It’s pretty clear that God hates proud, self-motivated language.

Romans 1:29-30 shows us that He ranks it right up there beside murder and depravity. Perhaps this is because gossip is the first to mar God’s creation.Satan introduced gossip into the world shortly after Adam and Eve were created. He distorted the truth about God and spread rumors when he told Adam and Eve that God had lied to them. He made them question God’s motives and doubt God’s love. Satan’s twisted words introduced literal and spiritual death into the world. (Gen. 2:16-17)

When Eve repeated God’s words a chapter later, she added the phrase, “lest you die” (Genesis 3:3). Satan’s rumor had already begun to seep into her thoughts and erode her opinion about God. She was beginning to believe God was unfair.

Beginning to believe…in other words, she was beginning to believe that lies were truth. To the point that she didn’t even recognize the fact that she had twisted God’s words.

And we, just like Eve, tend to believe anything we repeat enough times.

Our words carry the power of life and death. But we typically speak without evaluating our true motives. 

This is because we seldom think before we speak. Philippians 4:8 should serve as our guide for both our thoughts and our speech:

Finally, brothers, whatever is true,

whatever is honorable,

whatever is just,

whatever is pure,

whatever is lovely,

whatever is commendable,

if there is any excellence,

if there is anything worthy of praise,

think [and speak] about these things.

Overcoming Gossip

Gossip is one of Satan’s most powerful spiritual weapons. To overcome gossip, we must fight using spiritual weapons through the power of the Holy Spirit. The first step is to understand that Satan’s goal is to justify your actions, to accuse others, and to judge. Satan wants you to look for every opportunity to tell yourself that you’re better than “those people.” Gossip and speculation are two of his most powerful tools.

Of course, God’s agenda is for you to repent of prideful actions, not judge, not accuse, and not justify gossip or idle talk about others. Before repeating anything about anyone, ask yourself if you have the facts. Then ask yourself if you could repeat the information in the presence of the person involved and if they would allow you to pass it on. Finally, ask yourself if repeating the information is helpful or potentially hurtful.

Our ultimate goal as Christians is to love others as we desire to be loved. If we remember to speak of others as we would like to be spoken about, we will have no question about what to say and when to say it.

For more information on gossip, listen to the podcast on “Brain Gossip” featuring Pastor Dawn Damon and author Wanda Sanchez. You may also want to read a more in-depth explanation of self-talk from a biblical perspective in my book The Silent Seduction of Self-Talk.

Oh, and by the way, I’m still wearing my favorite diamond ring.

 

What about you? Have you been hurt by gossip? How did it affect your life?

My Love-Hate Relationship with Waiting

make today countIt’s been eight months since I walked through emergency room doors and asked for an MRI of my brain.

I knew something was up. It was the same old feeling I’d had in 1999 when I knew something was seriously wrong with my head. And I was right.

My MRI showed a large SOMETHING.

The problem has been figuring out what it is. My diagnoses have ranged from an aggressive and deadly form of tumor, to multiple sclerosis, and finally to a stroke or bleed in my brain stem.

Over the course of eight months, I’ve been seen by more than seven doctors in multiple hospitals. Every doctor has overturned the diagnosis of the doctor before them.

In a nutshell, I have found this experience frustrating.

Mostly because I haven’t had a treatment plan or a way of determining which of my ever-changing symptoms are important and which are simply oddities.

Illness is frustrating. And exhausting. And often stirs misunderstanding.

Over the past eight months, I’ve come to hate a lot of things about waiting.

  • Waiting can suck me into focusing on the injustices of the world (or at least my perception of injustice), Like why I’ve been billed near six figures for so many conflicting diagnoses. Pain so easily shifts our focus away from others and onto ourselves. And while it’s all right to make ourselves a priority, it’s not right to make ourselves the focal point from which all things are measured.
  • Waiting can lure me into wanting to demand my rights. After all, aren’t I entitled to my freedom? Actually, I’m entitled to nothing except to love mercy, to seek justice (which isn’t the same as demanding my rights), to walk humbly with God and people.
  • Waiting can narrow my vision. The longer I wait, the more I am tempted to see only my narrow slice of life and magnify my seeming needs. Waiting can take my eyes off God and others as I grow increasingly self-focused.
  • Waiting can pull me into isolation.Exhausted by circumstances, I may choose to withdraw or simply slip into isolation unaware.
  • Waiting can stir me to anger. The longer I look at circumstances and other people, the more easily I become convinced that I’m getting the short end of the stick. I convince myself that God doesn’t care enough to help me, and my anger feeds my attitude, which feeds my anger, in a vicious cycle.

Over the past eight months, I’ve also learned to appreciate a lot of things about waiting. 

  • Waiting can broaden my vision for the injustices of the world.If we allow it to, our pain can shift our attention to those suffering in similar situations–or in worse situations. I’ve found that ministering to others over these past months has been one of the most restorative things I’ve done for myself.
  • Waiting offers me opportunities to advocate for others, based upon what I’ve learned.Fifty percent of the U.S. population suffers with chronic illness. We often don’t take the time to understand what it takes for these people and their caregivers to manage life. I recently went to the zoo with my family for an outing. The heat and physical exertion overwhelmed me, and I pulled my scooter under a tree to rest while my husband went to get me something to drink. Hundreds of people passed me without saying a word. Except for one young father and son who stopped to see if I was all right. Why? Because they were looking past themselves and the crowd for people in need.
  • I’ve learned that waiting can enlarge my vision for God and others. Waiting can draw me toward God and others if I focus on his character and his goodness and his faithfulness. As I focus on him, other elements of my life and purpose come into focus, including the way I see others and my heart to know and serve them.Waiting can fill me with grace. The more I focus on the goodness of God, the more I see how blessed I am, how loved I am, and how secure I am. I become increasingly convinced that I am never out of God’s care, and my gratitude explodes into a grace-filled, purpose-driven life.
  • Waiting can fill me with grace. The more I focus on the goodness of God, the more I see how blessed I am, how loved I am, and how secure I am. I become increasingly convinced that I am never out of God’s care, and my gratitude explodes into a grace-filled, purpose-driven life.

Yes, I’ve been waiting for eight months for a diagnosis, but I get to choose where I place my eyes, my heart, and my faith.

But God’s goodness, mercy, and grace in my life haven’t dimished for a moment.