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Posts Tagged ‘gossip’

What will you eat today? What will I consume? I know I am too quick to “eat” gossip, those juicy tidbits doled out by well meaning colleagues and friends. But no matter how sweet the information seems at first, it’s ultimate value is bitter to the soul.

Revelation 10:10
I [John] took the little scroll from the angel’s hand and ate it. It tasted as sweet as honey in my mouth, but when I had eaten it, my stomach turned sour.

I have said before that I struggle with judging others but I”m beginning to see that the gossip thing is seriously vying for first place. As a gregarious person, I am always talking with people and the tendency to gobble up unbidden news is always there.

Today, then, just today, I must be aware of this tendency and flee. “Tell me later,” I can say or “Just a minute, I think I hear my cell phone,” or “Hold that thought” and run to the ladies room. Truly, I must flee.

And what about the gossip I long to tell. Lord, help me count to ten before I say another word.

Focus. Focus.

I know this verse from Revelation is not about gossip, but it reminded me of the phenomenon all the same. In reality, the little scroll that John consumed, held an unspoken prophecy, a piece of news that could not be shared with the world. Will we ever know?

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This one is right up there with “be holy!” Peter does not mince words. At least in a couple of other translations, rid yourself of such and such is written as “lay aside” or “be done with,” but in any case, this one is on me.


I Peter 2:1-2a
Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind. Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk . . .

Like any plan to change, it’s important to understand the malady. Drunks can’t stop drinking until they know it’s a problem and so forth. I have to look with honesty, are these corrupting attributes part of my life?

Malice is pretty harsh stuff: a spiteful, intentional desire to do someone harm. The gentrified version of this would be deliberate “payback.” Another version of malice might be keeping a simple list of wrongdoings and justifying some other action because of that list. He owes me, as it were. So, I don’t hate anyone and I’m not by nature one who seeks to do harm, but I have kept a few lists hidden in my heart.

Holy Spirit, I give you permission to clean out those lists: reboot my system.

Deceit is a little less malicious but more roundabout in its application. It’s a lie, even a white lie, told on purpose to misrepresent a situation. It can be an exaggeration or a minimization. In any case, it’s a type of hiding. I justify this behavior by saying the truth will just cause more trouble. My kids have pretty much given me the same lame excuse. This needs to stop.

Holy Spirit, I give you permission to open the vault of my subterfuges. Just, please, don’t let ’em out all at once.

Hypocrisy is a form of acting. I really don’t want to admit publicly that I’m a hypocrite, who does? But I am a good actress and that ability crosses over into daily life, I know it does, without even thinking about it. I want people to like me. But I have made this mistake in relationships too often, trying to be someone I am not because I don’t want to rock the boat.

Holy Spirit, keep me authentic through transparency of heart.

Envy is rooted in American culture and we need some intense weeding here. It came to us under the guise of the American Dream but instead has fueled advertising into making us all want what we do not have. Discontentment with what is has become the norm as though it’s the foundation to ambition. I’ve gotten sucked in more than once: it’s the basic reason for my debt.

Holy Spirit, teach me to be content without sacrificing excellence.

Slander is my worst enemy and my best friend. It’s just a stronger word for gossip. It’s those times I put down someone else to make myself feel better. It’s those times I complain about someone else to gather a personal posse to be on my side. It’s those things I’ve said about other people that would be devastating if they were standing behind me. Oh yeah.

Holy Spirit, hold my tongue, keep me mindful of my words.

Peter says the solution to all of this is craving [thirsting, desiring eagerly] the pure “milk of the Holy Spirit.” This picture is the child at a women’s breast, where only the one can satisfy, with no intermediaries.

Do I crave the presence and intervention of the Holy Spirit? Do I crave the Christ, appropriating daily what was given to me by the sacrifice of the God-Man? Do I eat fruit instead of ice cream?

I am still free to choose.

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Photo by Natdiastok

Wikipedia states, “pollution is the introduction of contaminants into a natural environment that causes instability, disorder, harm or discomfort to the ecosystem i.e. physical systems or living organisms.” I do that.

James 1:26a, 27c
Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, . . . keep oneself from being polluted by the world.

Language is a gift that humans have. With it, we can calm a child, paint word pictures, bring joy and laughter, or elicit memory and sorrow; we can also ruin a reputation, fill space with toxicity, hurt someone’s heart, start a fight, or destroy a relationship. Just with words.

Sometimes I think I have a good knack with words, but too often, I misuse my gift.

Some years ago, I went on a silent retreat at All Saints Convent. I had been there before for shorter retreats but never in full silence. I didn’t realize this silence would also mean no one would engage me – not with eyes or touch or anything. It was like I wasn’t there. In my loneliness, I sought out books and wrote in my journal.

But I wonder, were there still too many of those words? Did I really go into the silence?

My daughter asked me the other day if I have ever tried meditation and could I really sit and think of nothing? I said I had, more in the realm of contemplative prayer, but the battle with words was tough. I can do the flowing river routine for about a minute, maybe. No, truth be told, I am still a slave to the automatic typewriter in my head.

I have said some terrible things to people and I’ve said some terrible things about people. It’s all gossip and diarrhea of the mouth.

People always say, “think before you speak” and the joke for me is that I often speak so I can hear what I’m thinking.

On Wednesday, I went to an acupuncturist in hopes of getting some relief from hot flashes. After the treatment, she said the process is a kind of drawing out of heat from the body and often it leaves through body waste. I’d like to dump some of those mean words the same way and flush them down the toilet.

You, out there: you I know and you I don’t know . . . please forgive me.

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Photo by Nic Mifsud

Who do I call on to affirm or witness my declaration of faith? Do I have the confidence to call on God, “the blessed and only Ruler, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords,” to corroborate my story each day? And yet, that is the only witness that counts. That’s part of the faith agreement.


I Timothy 6:13-14a
In the sight of God, who gives life to everything, and of Christ Jesus, who while testifying before Pontius Pilate made the good confession, I charge you to keep this command [fight the good fight] . . .

There’s an evangelistic phrase that has been beat to death, “If you were arrested for being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you?”

But of course, the answer depends on the human interpretation of our actions. And really, all those other witnesses could say what they want, there is only witness that counts.

I have been in enough churches or para-church organizations and observed a cloud of well-meaning witnesses crucify me and others for saying the wrong thing, for revealing a disapproved behavior or choice, for reading the wrong books or watching the wrong movies or listening to the wrong music. Once, my husband and I left a church only to discover later that we were discussed as having left the true faith by leaving that group and moving on to a different one. (Anne Jackson speaks eloquently of this in her book and blog, Permission to Speak Freely.)

Have I been guilty of being this kind of witness to others? I’d love to say I haven’t, but I know better.

It’s one of the reasons that gossip is so dangerous, it’s a type of witnessing, a “passing” of information with little concern for its accuracy. One of the curses of gossip for me is that hearing it or speaking it has given me the illusion of being on the inside of a matter. If I have “news” that no one else has, I am an insider. When I hear such news, I am being included. What a terrible sham.

I cannot go back, I can only go forward. Today is a new day and today, I open the gates of heart and ask that He be my witness this day.

Lift up your heads, you gates;
be lifted up, you ancient doors,
that the King of glory may come in.
Who is this King of glory?

The LORD strong and mighty,
the LORD mighty in battle.
Lift up your heads, you gates;
lift them up, you ancient doors,
that the King of glory may come in.

Who is he, this King of glory?
The LORD Almighty—
he is the King of glory. [Psalm 24:7-10]

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Salt is a seasoning that makes things taste better through its chemical interactions with the food. And yet, in this age of health anxiety, we have started to withhold salt from our diet even though exercise could be just as effective. Have we removed salt from conversations too?

Colossians 4:6
Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.

When was the last time I sat around with some people and just talked? I mean talked about ideas and possibilities, spirituality or sorrow, hope or despair. When has the conversation started heading one way and my comments moved it another, giving it a new flavor, a new point of view . . . with grace.

Now, I don’t mean those times when proselytizing starts or the 4 Spiritual Laws pamphlets come out of the handbag or a litany of “Praise the Lords” drop in after every remark like a Greek chorus or HipHop melody.

I’m interested in knowing if the truth of me, Spirit-filled and intertwined with the Christ within, has acted as a true flavoring, bringing out the best in others while giving grace and acceptance to any hardened hearts around me.

So much is out there that teaches us how to control a conversation, close the deal, get to “yes,” influence, convince or convert people, win friends, or filibuster until people can’t stand it anymore.

When my daughter, new to this country at 15, went to high school with little or no English, she bemoaned how hard it was to make friends. We chalked it up to ESL (English as a Second Language) and assumed things would get better as her language skills improved. And to some degree that was true and yet, it never became easy for her. Truthfully, I am amazed teenagers have any friends at all considering that most of their conversations tend to be about themselves and rarely about the other, unless they are drilling down into the behavior, looks, attitude or boyfriend of a mutual “other” (i.e. gossiping).

I shared with her a handy book I found called How to Start a Conversation and Make Friends by Don Gabor. I encouraged her to try the author’s technique but she found it unmanageable. And why? Because the essence of his technique was to ask lots of questions about the other person and listen to the answers. It’s letting go of feeling it necessary to reciprocate data for data, fact for fact, personal story for personal story. This is the grace part of conversation.

Perhaps it’s time for me to reread this book myself. Or maybe, like here, scripture has been saying it all along: Grace and salt, kindness and joy, love and humor, forgiveness and knowledge, patience and wisdom.

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I don’t like taking tests. Does anyone? I tend to freeze up, get anxious over details, or answer too quickly. But I’m a good student and usually I’m smart enough to “pass the test” as a whole but what about all those wrong answers? Is the spiritual test pass/fail?

II Corinthians 13:5
Test yourselves to make sure you are solid in the faith. Don’t drift along taking everything for granted. Give yourselves regular checkups. You need firsthand evidence, not mere hearsay, that Jesus Christ is in you. Test it out. If you fail the test, do something about it.
[The Message]

I’m confident I’ve got all the big stuff down. After all, I’ve been a believer for a long time! Jesus is indeed the Christ, died for the sins of the world and rose from the dead. I am comfortable with both the Nicene Creed and the Apostles’ Creed.

But there are those daily transgressions, those small judgments, those secret lies, those exaggerations, and worse of all, those unnecessary comments (that’s a nice way of saying “gossip”).

I really believe the problem is lack of mindfulness and awareness to Presence. I have been practicing the Divine Hours for the last year, but lately, I find I’m leapfrogging through the day and only doing morning and evening. I’m letting my day and my energy get sucked up by busy-ness. It’s not good for any self-test or self-examination. It means I am not consciously looking for Christ in others. I’m not recognizing Christ in my circumstances. I’m walking blind and deaf.

Oh, it’s like winning the war on a technicality even though I’m losing all the battles.

Here’s where I could use some help, some sisters or brothers, to just poke me a little and say, “Remember” or “Look” or “Listen.”

Quicken my spirit Lord.

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It’s pretty important, this credibility stuff. I mean, if a person blows his/her believability or reliability, it’s hard to get those things back. Reputation is in that category.

I Corinthians 15:14-15a
And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead.

In some cases, people don’t have credibility or reliability just by the nature of their job title, e.g. politician. And in some arenas, “Christian” carries about the same pall or dark cloud. If a Christian hurts someone or is caught in a grievous act, then all Christians can become suspect.

I remember how angry my mother was (even after 35 years) at the ministers who neglected to distribute food fairly in the displaced persons camps after World War II. She mistrusted all ministers. That’s extreme, but I think the point is still valid.

I also remember some years ago when I had only been working at a new job for only a few months. The “work room” was pretty tight and over 7 people and their workspaces were squished together into one room. It was a haven for gossiping and back biting. For a long time, I managed to stay out of it, but after a few months of exposure, I was digging in like the rest. One day, I passed one of these little luscious tidbits to another colleague and she said, “Oh, I’m so surprised to hear this from you, I thought you would never speak ill of anyone.” In that moment, I lost all credibility. I was devastated!

A man who lacks judgment derides his neighbor, but a man of understanding holds his tongue. [Proverbs 11:12]

This issue of gossip and judgment, without a doubt, my most besetting sins of all. I must desire to change. Clearly, I don’t hate this aspect of my behavior enough. God forgive me. Silence my tongue.

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