Have you ever said something about someone, and then wished you hadn’t? I certainly have, and this past weekend was another one of those unfortunate times.
A good friend had invited my husband and I to their home, along with several other couples, to watch our Carolina Panthers in the playoffs. My husband and I both proudly put on our black and blue #59 Luke Kuechly jerseys and headed over to their house, hors d’oeurves in tow.
We had a great evening, as the men focused solely on the television, and us girls laughed and chatted about everything under the sun while trying to focus on the game – at least until the Panthers started losing beyond the hope of winning.
But somehow during the evening, a certain person in our community came up in conversation, and we had a brief conversation about said person. Like I said – it was brief. But ever since then, I have felt convicted about it.
It wasn’t that I said anything malicious or scandalous about this person. Actually the things that I mentioned were true and factual, and were spoken from my own experience, not hear-say. In addition, this person had done something that really hurt me, and although I thought I had forgiven them, it was still on my heart apparently. The topic of conversation only lasted a few minutes, and then we moved on to talking about how much we liked the cheese dip. But immediately afterwards and in the days to follow, my heart was convicted. I always try not to gossip or talk about others, but you know what – I’m human.
And I’m a girl. Enough said.
I can’t help but chuckle about how God orchestrates our lives so perfectly, especially considering the fact that before we ever went to my friend’s house, I had already planned to read my wonderful friend Karen Ehman’s new book, Keep It Shut, on an airplane the following day while traveling to an event in Mississippi where I would be speaking. The title alone was like a little whisper from God saying, “Tracie, you knew better. Here’s some advice.”
Have mercy. Ever had one of those moments when your mind says shut up but your lips keep on moving about things better left unsaid? Yeah, that’s pretty much what happened. Hind sight is 20/20 right? I suppose. But the truth is, and what Karen’s book reinforced, is that we always need to watch our words carefully, and we need to be so in tune with the Holy Spirit that we feel convicted before gossipy words leave our lips, not just after.
Just because something is true or factual, and even if it happened to us personally, doesn’t mean it needs to be shared.
In chapter 7 of Keep It Shut: What To Say, How To Say It, and When To Say Nothing At All, Karen talks about the fact that gossip is not new – in fact, it was going on in biblical times too, and she shared several examples. She also shared a section about what is gossip and what is not, and that’s where my hand really got spanked. She mentioned the obvious, like sharing a secret we weren’t supposed to share, telling a story we are not sure is true, or referencing ‘hear-‘say’ as our resource, and I know to never do those things. But she also defined gossip as this:
– speaking about others in a way that paints them in a negative light so the listener will form an unflattering opinion
– talking in a cryptic way about someone, subtly suggesting some thing questionable or even scandalous about her character
Ouch. The info I had spoken – although it happened years ago, was completely true and was not intended for harm – might have subtly fallen into one of those two statements. Maybe the ladies I was speaking with didn’t give my words a second thought, but I sure did. And in fact, the Holy Spirit had a lot to say to my heart. I knew I had probably shared more than I should have. But all I could do was ask for forgiveness, and ask God for a stronger awareness and conviction in the future before gossipy words ever leave my lips. Life is full of spiritual lessons, and I have to say, this was one for me.
Keep It Shut is not just about gossip, but about the overall power of words. Words can hurt. Words can cause emotional damage. Words have power. Words are something we don’t always think about before spewing. And as many times as we may have been hurt by the words of others, we may have hurt others with our own words too – either directly to their face, or indirectly behind their backs.
Words need to be thought about and prayed about before they’re said, whether we are talking to our neighbors, co-workers, friends, spouses, or our own children. When we spend time with God on a routine basis, seeking strength and wisdom about the words we share daily, we will have more control over our words in any situation that arises.
And that is the core message of Karen’s new book. Words matter. Just because we are able to say it, doesn’t mean we should, and how we say things is just as important as what we say. That’s a lesson I bet all of us girls can benefit from remembering.
Today I want to give away one of Karen’s books because I believe in this message. To enter to win, leave a comment on my blog (emailed comments will not be entered) sharing briefly about a time you wished you had kept it shut. You don’t have to share all the details – just a quick comment expressing that you get it, and you could use a copy of this book. 🙂
— The winners of last week’s giveaway of two copies of Peanut Butter Sandwiches by Jeff Davidson were Cassandra and Maureen, both of whom have been notified via email.–