Yesterday morning, as I sat out on the back deck in the cool, quiet calm after rain, sipping a cup of coffee and reading this article, it hit me like a ton of lead bricks and gave me a lot to think about. In the past, I have tried to be a girl who doesn't listen (in context as to how this article uses the term), but there have been times where I've failed that. And even more recently I tend to want to sit in the corner and give myself a pity party regarding things that people are saying about me, but with the help of God and lots of prayer, I've realized that it doesn't matter. It doesn't matter what they say. Keep serving God, and disregard the lies. That's the theme of this article.
Whether we like to admit it or not, the church (and yes, the churches we are members of, wherever we may be) has major problems with gossip. I think a lot of Christians mislabel gossip as being 'concerned for my fellow Christian' and trying to get 'feedback' and 'support' from other fellow Christians, thus starting the gossip wildfire that gets worse every time it goes around. We've all been guilty of this. We sit and speculate on another person's actions and, without coming to the other person, we go to people who aren't even involved and get their opinions on that person and dump all of our opinions on them. Do you see the pattern? This is gossip. And honestly, I think this is one of the major issues that tears our churches apart and leaves the members bitter and defensive. We have to fix this. Let's start with ourselves – not trying to fix other people's problems.
“The Girl Who Doesn't Listen”
Jenefer Igarashi for Home Educating Family Magazine
When I was in grade school, nearly every single report card that got sent home said, “Little Jenny has potential but she never stops talking and she never listens.” Ahhh, the good old days.
Proverbs 18:17 says that “The one who states his case first seems right, until the other comes and examines him.”
Ever been on either side of that Proverb? Have you heard a story against someone and judged them without hearing the other side? Or, have you ever been judged by someone who heard a story about you without hearing your side? It's dreadful. And while we expect trials and persecution to come at us from the world, most of us are at a loss when a brother or sister, who claims Christ, gives us a great, hard poke right in the eyeball.
I'm not sure there is anything that compares to the vexation that sort of situation brings. I've been there and it reeks. My friend my friend... why have you forsaken me? I think we've all been there, and, as a side note, I'm guessing we mostly hearken back to those times we've forsaken rather than the times we've done the forsaking.
As I've grown I can see that my pride is always at the core. My reputation – not the glory of God or concern for my agitator – was what I was most anxious about. My thoughts generally revolved around my hurts, my rights, my oppression. Me me me, I love myself, I have my picture on the shelf. Poor poor me.
I jest, but truly, I do know those times really are excruciating. We have had 'opponents' genuinely convinced that we were in the wrong and come against us sharply. I remember one situation, years ago, where things got beastly bad with another family and things went downhill fast. Our situation grew worse as people began finding out there was an issue. And when it became clear that the reconciliation wasn't going to happen, my gut reaction was to build a defense. My hurts, my rights, my oppression was foremost on my mind. And I had a deep longing for everybody to hear 'my side of the story'. I would walk around the house muttering Proverbs 18:19. I didn't sleep at night. I laid in bed arguing with this family in my head, or even getting up to write out ten page letters detailing their error. I craved the chance to stand up 'and give the other side of the story'. Because I was right! My cuase was just! I needed to be heard! The truth must be unleashed! Cue the soundtrack from the Lord of the Rings battle scene...
Now, as it happens, I'm married to Geoff the Great. He is a good man. He is a wise man. During that particular conflict, most days I wanted to lop off his head with a garden hoe. The man was constantly reigning me in (or trying to do damage control on my behalf) and was always giving me the same lecture. And I didn't like what I was hearing from him.
His ongoing theme was, “Zip it.” I wish I had a nickel for every time he said, “Stop talking.”
As a side note, I'll mention that he didn't mean for me not to talk about the issues with him or our pastor or my closest friend (who was praying for us intently) but my please about “letting everybody know the 'real truth'” or '”hearing the other side of the story” fell on deaf ears.
His point was always this: if a third party was not in a position to actively help solve the problem, then it could only muddy the waters by giving them information. I rebelled against this heartily. And I had a lot of scripture to fling at his head when he would tell me such things. But he remained steadfast.
My bitter response to my husband was, “So are we supposed to just let people believe things that are untrue?” His answer was, “If they are so easily persuaded by one side of a story, then what does it matter if we're able to persuade them to another? We will not chase people down and try to educate them.”
And even harder still was the repulsive idea of not giving my side of the story when people (who had heard the charges against us) came to us and asked. This is what always just about killed me. I would howl at my husband and ask him if he just expected me to smile alike a sap when people were genuinely trying to hear both sides. His answer was a profound one. His response to those who would come to hear the other side was this: “Why did you listen when someone began telling a story against us?”
This really is a concept most of us can't accept. It's an uncommon idea that God truly is in control and that when we're bad-mouthed, we do not need to raise our voices to defend ourselves, or attack our attackers. It can feel almost impossible to live this way. My husband was constantly telling me that if we would simply continue to walk in a way that lined up with God's Word then that would shine as our witness better than any arguments we could make on our one behalf.
My husband is gentle, but he would adamantly let third parties know that they really should not have listened to anything against us at all, nor did they need to hear anything from us against our accusers. What purpose had they to listen? And why were they coming to us now? If we gave a story and won them over what good would that do? He would let friends know that the issues we had really needed to be worked out one-on-one between us and our Christian opponent. And then he would encourage them to pray for both parties and if anything, simply reinforce (to our opponents) that they should meet with us and our pastor. He continued to emphasize that they had no business of listening to either 'our' side or 'their' side unless they were being officially brought in as a mediator. My husband is so wise. Oh how badly I wanted to stab him in the eye with a chopstick – because Lord knows I had all sorts of things I was ready to share. But he was right.
SO why do most people listen? It's because “words of a gossip go down like choice morsels” (Proverbs 8:8). We all love to hear a good story. We like to feel involved and in-the-know. It's why tabloid papers and gossip television shows are in such high demand. We trick ourselves into thinking we can somehow help by knowing other people's issues. Yet we're told in 2nd Thessalonians 3:11 that we have no business at all going about as 'busy bodies', nor should we have anything to do with busybodies or divisive people. Titus 3:10 tells us to reject a 'divisive man after the first and second admonition'.
Nine out of ten times, when somebody starts a sentence with the words, “I'm really upset about so-and-so” our immediate response should be, “If I'm not in a position to actively fix the problem then I really better not hear anything about this.” Stick your fingers in your ears if you have to. And if you hear me start blabbing about something you haven't any business hearing about, then punch me right in the face. Figuratively, please.
As we follow Christ, let's rip out all of the smelly areas. Especially the hard ones. We need to guard our mouths and love the ones who have wronged us. God is sovereign in all things. We also need to stop our ears and reject those foul morsels that come to us so easily and go down without a struggle.
Nobody said it would be easy; if they did, they were lying. We serve a Great and Mighty God and He does understand the frustrations we go through. In the meantime may we glorify Him in an honorable, noble way that elevates and edifies those who may be watching. People who are obsessed with the injustices in life are biter, unpleasant and tiresome to be around. Yes, son, I know they did that to us and it hurts. We really need to love them and respond in kindness and pray that God will help us reconcile.” There's always a right way and a wrong way to respond to any circumstance, even the crazy, twisted ones. Imagine the good we could do if our children consistently heard us speaking only that which was edifying. Say only what is right, and if you hear something that's bad... be the girl who doesn't listen.