Friday, May 18, 2007

Chatter Not the Truth

A country preacher complained to one of his members who missed church the previous Sunday. The farmer explained, "I had haying to do. It was over in the back field where no one could see me working on a Sunday.”

"But God saw you," the preacher protested. "I know that, but He's not a gossip like the folks around here."

Gossip has been on my mind. In the laundry room while folding dish towels and sheets, I contemplated gossip. Not behind-the-back talk that I planned to do, but I thought about one more reason not to gossip.

When one says too much about a person or tells information not needed, the listener, especially if they’ve never met the person being talked about, may use the information to make a wrong judgment.

If the person being spoken about is unknown to the hearer, they can be influenced by the verbal portrayal. Praise or slander can sway the listener.

Bible proverbs have quite a bit to “say” about word exchanges, but here is my favorite: “Those who guard their mouths and tongues keep themselves from calamity” (Proverbs 21:23). James says learning to tame the tongue is an aim at perfection.

Some defend tittle-tattle saying, “If it’s true, it’s not gossip.” Pardon me, but I don’t want all the true things about my life bantered about. At times, even if something is true, prudence calls one to “chatter not the truth” (I don’t remember where I read that, but I like it.)

C. S. Lewis in “God in the Dock” said it’s best when we can “[a]bstain from all thinking about others unless your duties as a teacher or parent make it necessary to think about them.”

He suggests that when we’re our thoughts are tempted to stagnate on others’ faults that we “simply shove them away.” Instead of character assassinations, Lewis encourages considering our own bungles: “Of all the awkward people in your house or job there is only one whom you can improve very much.”

Some days I feel just like a Kindergartner, a beginning learner. My husband is fond of saying, “Get out your Big Chief Tablet.” Oh, the truth of it.

Jesus said to remove the timber protruding from my eye before trying to finger-pinch the speck of sawdust out of a friend’s eye.

The farmer was right. God doesn’t like gossip. He likes to cure it.

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