Recently I was in a very public place where I overheard a not-so-nice conversation. It wasn’t as if I was eavesdropping, they were purposefully speaking loud enough for all within earshot to hear. These two ladies were talking to a complete stranger about their dislike of a teacher. It just so happened that the teacher in question is someone who I know personally and happen to think quite highly of.
As I sat debating on what to do, the woman listening to the rant commented, “I had actually hoped my child would get them this year and was disappointed when they did not.” Conversation over.
I honestly was stunned that these ladies would be so bold as to talk negatively about someone to a total stranger. What if this woman they were venting to had been the daughter or best friend of the person they were talking about?! Awkward!! Besides that, I feel pretty confident in saying that this mother had not expressed her concerns with the actual teacher that she was so comfortable gossiping about. Unfortunately, this is not the first time where I’ve been in a similar situation and I would venture to say that most of you have also found yourselves in the same predicament. When you are involved in a conversation and talks turn to gossip, things go from friendly & chatty to painfully uncomfortable in the blink of an eye. Mostly because I am attempting to avoid confrontation, I typically walk away saying nothing when these sticky situations arise. However, there have been times where I felt inclined to defend the person who wasn’t present to do so themselves.
The words of Ephesians provide us with this simple advice:
“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up, according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” (4:29)
Tell me, what does it benefit a person to speak badly of them in their absence? What good thing can come to those who are doing the talking? What if, when faced with an offense, we took our grievances directly to the other party rather than to anyone and everyone who will listen? Having a mature conversation with your offender opens the door of communication and will oftentimes lead to resolution or at the very least an understanding of the other party’s position. The alternative of bashing them to another, or worse yet, via social media, will only cause discord. Furthermore, the one delivering the blows comes out looking far worse than the one they are attempting to paint in an unfavorable light.
When in doubt, it may help to ask yourself, “how would I feel if someone said this exact thing of me?” If the thought of it makes you squirm, then you should hold your tongue.