August 18, 2014
Slugs, Gossip, and Slimy Trails
Without wood the fire goes out; without gossip a quarrel dies down (Proverbs 26:20, NIV).
Friend to Friend:
A monster was sneaking into my yard in the dark of night and devouring my prize plants. I never saw his beady eyes or heard his pounding footsteps—just the aftermath of his destruction. He left a trail of slime as he moved from plant to plant, leaving large gaping holes in broad leaf gerbera daisies, gnawing entire velvety trumpet-shaped blossoms on purple petunias, and reducing bushy begonias to naked stalks.
I asked a neighbor about my flowerbed’s demise, and she said, “You’ve got slugs.”
“Slugs!” I exclaimed. “The yard monster is a tiny little slug?”
“You can put out slug bait to catch them and see for yourself,” my confident neighbor continued.
I sprinkled slug bait all around the yard and then waited. The next morning I viewed the “monsters” remains. The beasts were about a quarter-inch long—about the size of my little toe nail.
How could something so small cause so much damage in such a short amount of time? I mused. Then my mind thought of something else very small that can cause enormous damage in a short amount of time… gossip. King Solomon wrote, “The words of a gossip are like choice morsels; they go down to a man’s inmost parts”(Proverbs 18:8). Just as one tiny slug can destroy an entire flowerbed, so can one tiny morsel of gossip destroy a person’s reputation, mar one’s character, and devour a friendship. And they both leave slimy trails.
In the South we have this knack for making gossips sound…almost nice. All you have to do is add “bless her heart” to the end of the sentence. It goes like this: “Susie gained fifty pounds with that last pregnancy, bless her heart.” “Marcy’s husband ran off with his secretary, bless her heart.” “I heard Clair yelling at the postman yesterday, bless her heart.” But all the “bless her hearts” don’t make mask what it really is…gossip.
Solomon wrote, “Whoever repeats the matter separates close friends” (Proverbs 17:9). Charles Allen, the author of Gods’ Psychiatry observed: “Those of great minds discuss ideas, people of mediocre minds discuss events, and those of small minds discuss other people.” Maybe if we are spending our time talking about people, we need to fill our minds with better material such as good books, The Bible, or other reading material (and I don’t mean People Magazine).
What exactly is gossip? Webster defines gossip as ”easy, fluent, trivial talk, talk about people behind their backs.” It is repeating information about another person’s private affairs. If you have to look around to make sure that no one can hear what you are saying, you are probably gossiping. If you would not say what you’re saying in front of the person you are talking about, then you’re probably gossiping.
I’ve often heard the phrase, “knowledge is power.” Perhaps that is why gossip is so appealing. It suggests a certain amount of power because “I have the inside scoop.” But gossip is not power. On the contrary it shows a lack of power…lack of self-control.
But it takes two to tango the gossip dance. “Without wood the fire goes out; without gossip a quarrel dies down” (Proverbs 26:20). The Bible tells us to make every effort to avoid gossipers (Proverbs 20:19). A good rule of thumb is if you are not part of the problem or part of the solution, then keep the information to yourself.
One day a woman felt overwhelmed with guilt over her years of malicious gossip. She went to the local priest and confessed her sin. The priest was all too aware of her wagging tongue and had experienced the sting of her words first hand…or rather second hand.
“What can I do to rectify all the damage I have caused with my gossip?” she asked.
“Gather a bag of feathers,” he began. “Then go around to each house and place a feather at their door.”
That seemed like a simple enough request, so the woman did just as the priest had instructed. After the task was complete, she returned. “I have done what you requested,” she said. “Now what am I to do?”
“Now go back and retrieve each of the feathers,” he replied.
“That is impossible,” the woman argued. “The wind will have blown them all around town by now.”
“Exactly,” replied the wise priest. “Once you have spoken an ill word, it drifts through the air on wings of gossip, never to be retrieved. God has forgiven you, as you have asked. But I cannot remove the consequences of your hurtful words or gather them from the places they have landed.”
Here’s an idea. If a friend approaches you with some “news” or a “concern” about another person, stop and ask, “May I quote you on what you’re about to tell me?” That will usually “put a lid” on the conversation before it even begins.
Dear LORD, please give me the self-control I need not to gossip. Please forgive me for the times I have repeated a matter that was none of my business. Help me to not be lose-lipped when it comes to talking about other people. Give me courage not to engage in conversation when someone begins to gossip about another person. I make a commitment today to refrain from gossip and not add wood to the fire.
In Jesus’ Name,
Now It’s Your Turn
Read 2 Corinthians 12:20
What does Paul warn us to stay away from? Are you surprised that gossip is in the list?
1Timothy 5:13 says: “Besides, they get into the habit of being idle and going about from house to house. And not only do they become idlers, but also busybodies who talk nonsense, saying things they ought not to.”
What comes to mind when you think of a busybody?
Can you think of a time when you were hurt by gossip?
Can you think of a time when you hurt someone with gossip?
My toes are hurting. How about yours?
More from the Girlfriends
You have a powerful force, right under your nose. To learn more about how to use your words wisely and control your tongue, see my nook, The Power of a Woman’s Words. One way you can use your words well is to pray for your husband. Come visit us over at The Praying Wives Club and pray for your man.
On September 8, 2014, I’ll begin my on-line fall Bible Study on The Power of a Woman’s Words. I have the book and Bible study guide specially priced for the months of August and September. Those who sign up will receive access to free video lessons and a free video viewing guide. Click here to view a sample video lesson. This is perfect for church groups, small groups, or individual study. Click here to sign up and learn more. We’re going to learn about the power we possess, the people we impact, and the potential to change. Hope to see you there!
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