The Tongue Breaketh Bone

Although the tongue itself have none – Wycliffe (Works)

Proverbs 16: 28 A perverse man sows strife, And a whisperer separates the best of friends.

Proverbs 11: 13 A talebearer reveals secrets, But he who is of a faithful spirit conceals a matter.

Proverbs 20:19 He who goes about as a slanderer reveals secrets, Therefore do not associate with a gossip.

Watching our new hens running around pecking for insects and squawking at each other has reminded me of a scene from the movie The Music Man. I don’t remember much about the movie, but I do recall one scene where the little town is abuzz with gossip, while you hear a song that goes something like this:
“Pick-a-little, talk-a-little. Pick-a-little, talk-a-little. Cheep, cheep, cheep, talk-a-lot, pick-a-little-bit,” and so on. The ladies (maybe men too?) talk back and forth like our silly hens. Gossip though, is not just silly, but destructive and hurtful.

Have you had the experience of learning that people are talking about you in ways you’d rather not be talked about? Ouch!

Sometimes it is not even something negative, but just something we don’t want shared with everyone. I remember once being on a field trip and quietly telling a friend that I was expecting for the umpteenth time in a few years. I’m not kidding, before I had arrived home the news had spread through the entire group and even beyond.

This was an innocent kind of gossip, where no one meant any harm. Other times what we say is not so innocuous. Gossip is one of the most harmful things we do to one another, yet it is so commonplace, and for whatever reasons, it seems to be something that women struggle with more than men. Gossip hurts not only the person spoken against, but it also harms the one to whom it is spoken and the speaker herself.

When you look at the passages that deal specifically with women, gossip keeps cropping up. In Titus 2 older women are not to be “malicious gossips” and the same is repeated in I Tim. 3:11: “Women must likewise be dignified, not malicious gossips, but temperate, faithful in all things.” Take a look at the discussion of young widows in I Tim. 5. Paul writes that younger widows ought to marry again, because when they don’t they tend to do things they oughtn’t. He writes:

At the same time they also learn to be idle, as they go from house to house; and not merely idle, but also gossips and busybodies, talking about things not proper to mention. (I Tim 5:13)

Even for those of us who aren’t widows, this passage should give pause. Here we can learn some things we can do to avoid situations that tend to lead to gossip. First, we ought to be busy, doing the things that we are called to do. And second, we should not be going “house to house” gabbing. For those of us with children, our focus should be on staying home and caring for and training our children. With our modern world, going house to house is far easier than in the days when this actually meant leaving your little home and venturing out. Now all we have to do is pick up a telephone or log onto a computer. E-mails and (dare I say it) blogs can be just as dangerous as in-person conversation, if not more so. Since I started blogging I have had mixed feelings about it, which remain. But whatever our mode of communication, we must hold ourselves to the same standards.

Oftentimes we have a hard time discerning whether something is gossip or not. Recently I had two younger women question me about this. How, they wanted to know, in a certain situation, can you tell when you slip over the line? I really appreciated their question and their desire to please the Lord by not sinning in this way. And while I’m afraid I didn’t have a good answer for them at that moment, I have been thinking about their questions further. To address their concerns, plus my own, here are some basic guidelines:

- If I think I may be over the line and gossiping, I probably am, and I need to stop, post haste!

- If a friends starts to stray into gossip about someone, it is best to turn the conversation away. Sometime a simple, “We’d better not go there,” will suffice. My husband is excellent at doing this with me!

- I need to know situations when gossip is likely, and either avoid them, or only go with a “mouth guard” in place. Years ago I met regularly with a group of dear homeschooling buddies of mine to plan co-op activities. We learned, the hard way, that when it got to be late at night, our tongues were not as well controlled, so we always prayed at the start of our meetings for conversation that would only build up others. I think women need to be on guard anytime they gather with lots of free conversation time.

- I need to watch what I say most when I am around those with whom I am most comfortable, because it is then that my guard is most relaxed. This means that even with my husband, with whom I share everything, there are some things that we should not talk about.

- I shouldn’t say things about someone that I wouldn’t say if they were next to me. If I have an issue with a person, I need to privately take it to them, in love. (Matt 18:15ff)

- I need to be particularly careful about ascribing motives to people. Too often we don’t know the whole story, but just make judgments based on a little information. Thinking the best of others should be my default mode.

- I teach my children that all their words should pass through three “Word Gates.” These are three questions to ask about everything we say: Are my words kind? Are they necessary? Are they true?

Finally, here are just a few verses reminding us (me!) what we should be using our tongues to do:

I Thess. 5:11 Therefore encourage one another and build up one another, just as you also are doing.

Proverbs 31:26 She opens her mouth in wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.


the wife said…
Thank you for your blog. We need to be reminded of these things. I know I have struggled with the gossip dragon myself. However- I found that a great way to break that dragon is to have to go and apologize to the person you hurt. It works great! The next time you will think before you speak- I am living proof!
mrsd said…
'...the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.' Isn't it a shame that we have to be taught kindness?

Excellent posting. Thanks.

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