Many years ago I had a good friend. She was a new Christian going through rough times and she confided in me. However, part of sharing her problems was talking about an acquaintance we had in common. And that person was being horrible to my friend. My friend was mad, and hurt and the only way she knew how to deal with that was talking behind that other person's back, ranting, and venting with me about her and I lent my ear, but also added a few comments of my own. And that made us closer. We would get together, speak on the phone everyday and she would share the latest terrible things this other person had done that day. I would counsel her as best as I knew how with the little knowledge I had (after all this was a loooooong time ago), and I would also add fuel to her anger with little bits and pieces of things I'd learned about the other person, too.
And we formed a good friendship. We had a good relationship for a while. Some time later, I introduced her to one of my best friends and our whole group of friends, and they hit it off instantly and almost immediately phased me out. And it hurt. But it didn't hurt more than what happened next. My new friend started talking behind my back and, not only did the group listened and added to her comments, they also made fun of me and lied about many things and misconstrued everything I said. Oh, how that hurt! I was depressed, and sad, and shocked. For a long time after that, I guarded my heart. I didn't make new friends. I concentrated on my husband and my son and talked to my sisters, and my parents. I didn't trust anyone else. Then, I started thinking that God was leading me to something different. I felt the need to start paying more attention to my relationship with God, to being close friends with God and Jesus. So I started focusing on Him and this led to the biggest, saddest, heart wrenching truth I have faced in the last few years: I had it coming. Everything they said about me, every joke made at my expense, every lie told about me, every gossip, every misconstrued word, I had it coming. I deserved it. It was my fault. My new friend followed my bad example to the letter. With my actions and inaction, I taught her that, as a Christian, there was nothing wrong about talking behind another person's back. I never corrected her, instead I went right along with her not only listening but also adding to the discussion. Instead of guiding her to a reconciliation, to peace in Christ through her situation, I formed a friendship based on gossip. And I got back from that friendship exactly what I put into it because when we gossip, we basically give the other person permission to do the same to us. God warns us not to associate with a gossip (Proverbs 20:19). Why do you think that is? Think about this for a second: when you gossip, you harm the person who listens, you harm the reputation of the person you're gossiping about, and you harm yourself. It doesn't matter if the one listening is listening voluntarily and merrily, that person is sinning and you're helping her sin. It doesn't matter if the person you're gossiping about deserves it, you should still love that person as Christ loves you. It doesn't matter if you're right, if you're hurting or your friend is hurting, it doesn't matter if that person did you wrong. You still have to overcome evil with good (Romans 12:21), you still have to show love and you still have to handle the situation with grace. Yes, people do mean things to us or to the people we love most. Yes, people gossip about us, lie about us, hurting us. Yes, people are rash, quick to judge, and harsh. But we don't know their heart, we don't know what motivates someone to act or react the way they do. We don't know their hurt; we just see them lashing out sometimes just because they need an easy target; sometimes just because they are afraid to look deep inside their hearts and deal with their problem. I remember one time I came home from work over-stressed, over-worked, tired, and hungry. My husband said something to me and I just exploded, I snapped. I don't remember what I said, but I do remember the look of surprise on his face as I was lashing out against him because he was just an easy target. He didn't say anything. He just hugged me. He hugged me tight and I sighed, and felt relief. That hug was all I needed. That hug was just pure, loving grace. Show grace. If someone hurts you, show grace, always remembering that at one time or another your words or your actions have hurt someone. If they gossip about you, or make fun of you, or lie about you, show grace. At one time or another you have been quick to judge, you have made a joke at someone's expense, even if only in your mind. If someone wants to gossip with you, show grace to her by reminding her that the correct way to talk is not behind backs but upfront, looking directly in the eye. I wish I would have done that when I had the chance. Now, I know that my friend is responsible for what she did and I know she acted the wrong way. But God holds me accountable for my actions. He will deal with hers. I pray that I have another chance to do what's right. I pray that God gives me wisdom so that my speech is always gracious, seasoned with salt, so that I may know how I ought to answer each person (Colossians 4:6), and when I ought to just shut up.
"[...] the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things. How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire!And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell.For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind,but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God.From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so." (James 3:5-10)