For the past several months, the ladies in our house church have been meeting once a month for Bible study. We bring our daughters, and the hostess usually provides tasty refreshments. It is such a wonderful blessing and something that I look forward to. The opportunity to meet with and discuss topics with like-minded women is something I've searched for - for a long time. We also get to do this on Sunday afternoons too, but it's nice to set aside a monthly meeting to get a little more in-depth on certain topics.
The last couple of months, we've been discussing gossip and slander. The first meeting that we did this brought lots of conviction and some serious thinking into the arena. We decided at that point we better do it again the next month to reinforce some of what we had discussed and to also be accountable to one another from one meeting to the next.
We used the book "Damsels in Distress" by Martha Peace as a starting point as she has an excellent chapter on this subject. There are many verses in the Bible regarding gossip and slander, and this is definitely something the Lord does not want us doing.
Why do women (and men, too) enjoy gossip so much? Gossip can almost be recreational for some people, and I must admit that in the past I've had friends that if we weren't talking about someone then there really wasn't much else to talk about. I now try to keep a distance from someone who I feel is likely to want to gossip. "Why?," you might ask. The main reason is I haven't quite figured out the proper way to stop gossip without appearing rude or "holier than thou." I can quickly change the subject, but once the piece of information has been spoken, it's there and probably won't be quickly forgotten.
For several years now, I can't say that I've enjoyed or participated in many gossip sessions, but I do think that slander may have been/is an issue for me. If someone did something to offend me, I could often be found finding or calling the person who is most going to sympathize with me and pouring out my sob story. Did I do this to ask for help with reconciliation with the other person? Probably not. Usually it was done to seek sympathy for myself and to make myself feel better. I have a new approach to this dilemma, which I was able to test recently. Someone did something that was really annoying and frustrating. I had that "boiling inside" feeling. But, I kept it to myself. Within a day or two, I was asking myself "why in the world did that bother you so much?" It was really no big deal. Had I ran to someone with the situation, that would have gotten them involved. I would have gotten over it in a day or two, but would they have gotten over it that quickly? Would they think of that situation every time they saw that person and would it make them think differently of that person? Yes, I think it would. That's the bad part about involving others. You and the person your irritated with may get over it and work things out, but how does that person you told work out the situation in their mind? It can make for quite a sticky situation.
I do think there are times when you do need someone to talk to. For instance, had I still been upset several days later about that situation, maybe I needed to go talk to that person and explain how I felt. What if I felt I needed to gain some insight or wisdom from someone before doing this? Personally, I would talk to my husband. But even then, I need to make sure that I'm doing it in the right spirit - a spirit of wanting to make things right and not a spirit of wanting to get my husband in the middle of it or get him upset about the situation, too.
I was discussing this with a friend recently, and she mentioned an area that she has to be careful with - prayer requests. I agree. I have seen times of group prayer requests turn into gossip sessions, and this is something else that we need to be aware of.
I could go on and on with this, but I'll just add one more thing. We need to be careful in this area in regards to our family members - husband, children, parents, in-laws, etc., etc. We can say things sometimes that are not very nice or maybe even disrespectful regarding our family members. How many times have I jokingly said something about my husband or children that may have been taken the wrong way or made them look bad? Just because I laughed when I said it doesn't make it okay.
Philipians 4:8 comes to mind: Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. I think if I keep that verse in mind, it will make this gossip/slander thing a lot easier to deal with.
Here's another good one - Psalms 19:14 -- Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O LORD, my strength, and my redeemer.
The women/girls are meeting tonight, and once again, I'm anticipating a wonderful evening of fellowship, growing and learning!