Gossip or Concern?
“I’m just concerned about her. I think if they went to counseling they could make it work. I mean, that’s what marital counseling is for; when a husband and wife are unable to effectively communicate. If they refuse to go see someone, well, then…I’m not sure there’s much else they can do.”
I sat sipping my hot cup of Starbucks coffee, and like a gifted storyteller, shared with my girlfriend Jenny every juicy detail of my friend Maureen’s troubled marriage.
“They don’t even have sex anymore because she’s put on so much weight since her baby was born. I mean, I understand she’s self-conscious of her body. I totally empathize with that, but I just wish she’d take care of herself, ya know?”
Jenny shook her head like a good friend does to let me know she was eager for me to continue. “I’m just glad that I have such a good marriage. Patrick and I have a great thing going on and it’s because we respect each other. We spend time with one another. Maureen and her husband don’t even pray together. I suspect that’s a big reason why this is all happening.” I said.
I’m surprised Jenny could hear a single word I was saying from down below when I was sitting so far up on my high horse. By the time I had cited the 5th example of why I had a joy-filled marriage and Maureen and her husband had a rotten one, I started getting a little tired of hearing myself speak. Just then, Jenny probed a bit more. “Do you think there’s danger of him cheating?” I could tell by the way she leaned in toward me she hoped my answer would be “Yes.”
“I don’t know. I don’t know if he’d cheat.” I quickly replied. I felt slightly dignified for not suggesting that I knew what the future might hold for the two of them; almost a bit redeemed. Yet seemingly out of nowhere, I had this sick guilty feeling in the pit of my stomach. I decided to zip my lips for a moment and check in with that inner voice to see what was going on.
“What am I doing?” I asked myself. “Am I really concerned about Maureen and her husband? What benefit is there for having this conversation? How in the world was I enjoying talking about such a tragic event like a possible divorce? They have children!” I spent the next couple seconds silently shaming myself. When I started to feel the tears well up in my eyes, I rejoined our conversation by letting Jenny know I had to go. “I have a million things to do today. I’m going to head back to my house.”
Once we parted ways, I spent some time thinking about my initial intention of involving Jenny in Maureen’s personal life. After doing so, I realized that I was just thrilled to have a piece of gossip to share. I wasn’t really seeking godly counsel or unburdening my troubled heart to a trusted friend like I had pretended. I was just sinning. And I was enjoying it way too much. I liked having interesting news. I was bored and wanted something to talk about. With this stark realization, a strong wave of guilt and shame overcame me. Here my friend confided in me her problems, and not only did I share them with someone else, but I did so to provide a source of entertainment. It was easier to spend my idle time that day talking about her life than doing the hard work it takes to focus on my own. What’s worse is, I had subconsciously disguised my sin as honest concern for my friend and claimed the darkness in my heart was something Spirit-filled. I found myself in one of the most dangerous predicaments as a Christian; deeply entangled in offense and in absolute denial about my ungodly behavior.
Thanks to our glorious God, there is a way out; even for a girl like me.
1. Come clean with yourself. Unintentionally, I had tried to pretend that I was merely concerned for Maureen. As long as I continued to lie to myself, I would be unable to come before the thrown of God and ask Him to right my wrong.
Proverbs 28:13 He who covers his sins will not prosper,But whoever confesses and forsakes them will have mercy.
2. Admit it; gossip is bad. Really, really bad. Magazines line our shelves with alluring headlines about celebrity gossip. Our society has convinced itself that it’s guilt-free entertainment to talk poorly about other people. But tabloids shouldn’t define what’s morally upright. To know what is truly righteous in life, we must read God’s word. And God puts gossip on His list of 6 abominable things that He detests.
Proverbs 6:17-19 These six things the Lord hates…A proud look, A lying tongue, Hands that shed innocent blood, A heart that devises wicked plans, Feet that are swift in running to evil,A false witness who speaks lies,And one who sows discord among brethren.
3. Repent. Once you’ve recognized how sinful an act gossiping is, seek forgiveness and ask that God provide for you a way out. It’s not enough to merely be sorry. God asks that we confess our sins and turn from them to find His favor.
4. Cling to Jesus: We can’t release ourselves from the tight grip sin has on us by fixating our eyes on the rules and laws that God has given us. Paul tells us “For when we were controlled by the sinful nature, the sinful passions aroused by the law were at work in our bodies, so that we bore fruit for death” (Romans 7:5) As Spirit filled followers of Christ, we are called to be free, to walk by the Spirit which enables us to live a noble life.
Galatians 5:23: Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.
Jessica Gavin is a freelance writer, committed wife and mother, and follower of Jesus living deliberately in the suburbs of Richmond, VA. Authentically curious about world religions, she embarked on a blog project called "52 Prayers" where she vowed to attend a different house of worship each week for a year in search for the truth about God. After a year of wrestling with theology, Jessica found herself at the foot of the cross, smitten with a man from Galilee. Her project drew an international following and her writing has been featured in Skirt! Magazine, Crosswalk.com, WRIC's morning show and currently she is working on her spiritual memoir. A lifelong fan of studying human potential, Jessica facilitates group coaching workshops in her area. You can reach her online at www.52prayers.com.