“Where no wood is, there the fire goeth out; so where there is no talebearer, the strife ceaseth.”
Rare is the person who doesn’t love to be “in the know.” Many of us thrive on feeling that we have an intimate knowledge of the goings-on around us and, sadly, it rarely matters if that knowledge is negative or positive. We crave the camaraderie of sharing information with others and having something to contribute to conversations. It makes us feel connected. And, because our audience reassures us that nothing shared will be passed on, that everything will “stay between us,” and that they care about those involved, we convince ourselves that our sharing is harmless – even justified.
Until we become the topic of conversation between others.
Or, the person we talked about learns of our indiscretion.
I adore children’s books. One of my favorites that touches on this topic is Mr. Peabody’s Apples. In the story, a young boy spreads an untrue rumor about his coach that turns the townspeople against the man. The coach decides to teach the boy a valuable lesson about the irreversible damage our words can cause. He asks the boy to fetch a pillow and meet him out in a field. The boy is then instructed to cut the pillow open and shake all the feathers out. A strong wind scoops up the feathers and scatters them far across the open field. The boy is then told to go out and retrieve every scattered feather. Naturally, this is not possible.
The lesson learned that day is that hurtful words are like feathers in the wind. Although we attempt to backtrack and eradicate our verbal feather-scattering, we can never undo all the damage.
“Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.”
Corrupt communication? That appears to be a bit harsh when compared to a little info-sharing between friends, right? But corrupt communication reveals that you’re willing to lower your values for personal gain. And, when you think about it, isn’t that what gossip is – personal gain? Doesn’t gossip make you feel you have leverage over someone? Isn’t gossip just idle talk that benefits no one?
Whenever possible, it’s our responsibility to protect our brothers and sisters in the Lord. It is within our power to halt the fires of gossip and idle rumors and let them die at our doorstep. Most of us are aware that a fire will extinguish without fresh kindling to feed it. When someone strikes up a conversation that hints at harm or gossip, we should be brave enough to assert, “It stops here!”
God’s word warns us to be gatekeepers of our hearts and minds against assaults on our mental, spiritual, and physical health. But we are also responsible to help protect one another.
“Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others.”
We are called to cast a cloak of protection around our brothers and sisters in Christ. To comfort them when they are hurting and surround them with love. To sustain them in hard times. And protect them from the poison arrows of the enemy.
Because it would mean the world if they did the same for us.
Photo credit: Eugene Chystiakov on Unsplash