The Devil’s Radio

238568711Flushing angrily, I had leveled a steady glare at the person across from me.  “I am not a gossip!”  I articulated through clenched teeth.  “Well, what do you call it, Phy?” They answered flippantly.  “Just talking about people is not gossip,” I replied heatedly.  “And I don’t appreciate being called one, either.”  They shrugged and walked away.  I watched them go with a rock in my stomach, still stewing over their half-kidding accusation.  Me, a gossip?  What a ridiculous idea.

Truth be told, I didn’t know the definition of gossip for a very long time.  In my ignorance, I decided what was gossip and what wasn’t — yet if anything excited me, it was news.  Any kind!  Good news, bad news, old news, sad news — a story can always catch my attention.  Especially if I know the main characters. 

News of a marriage, a baby, a graduation, the loss of a job, the gain of a new one — all these are facts about life that, unless specified by the participators therein, are open for discussion.  I will tell you where these facts become gossip:  when they turn into an evaluation of the person herself.  You’ve heard the old adage, “If you can’t say something nice…” Yet even when we hear it, it seems that too often we just can’t put it into practice.

For me it began with an interest in what people were up to.  I still have this interest.  I love to know when someone gets engaged or has a boyfriend, or when someone moves or goes to college.  These are exciting things in others’ lives — plus they help me to have some common ground to talk about when I meet them.  However, my little ‘interest’ began to evolve into a more threatening figure as time went on.

Under the guise of discussing local news I, with the help of willing participants, was able to dissect other people’s character.  We established who we didn’t like, and why, but of course we would never say so to anyone and you had better not tell anyone I said that, I’m in your confidence right?  But of course you do know that Nellie has a rich boyfriend… (knowing looks exchanged). 

“Gossip needn’t be false to be evil — there’s a lot of truth that shouldn’t be passed around.” (Frank A. Clark)              Many of those that we ‘dissected’ were people who we believed we had reason to perform surgery upon.  While these people may have been in the wrong biblically, this never gave me or anyone else license to degrade them with our words.  Yet in that moment, I held the power to change my listener’s perspective of this person.  If I didn’t like my subject, I used that power to make sure my listener began to doubt them as well. 

Insecure people gossip.  Those who cannot accept themselves in Christ, and accept others in Him as well, need to destroy others in order to feel built up.  Worse even, gossips are hypocritical and two-faced.  I will admit I have been this very thing — never realizing it in the moment because pride is blinding, and pride is perhaps the most common ingredient in the execution of anothers’ character.  Pride can’t take the second seat, and if it has to, it makes sure the person in the first seat suffers for getting it.  Women tend to use their tongues to accomplish this.

It’s not just your words, however.  Your face can say more than anything else.  A raised eyebrow, a knowing glance, a smirking smile out of the corner of your mouth, a wink… all these are as much gossip as the words you say.  Your actions are guilty as well:  a nudge, an elbow in the ribs of a compadre, a tilted chin, the impatiently cocked head… these speak just as loudly as your mouth.  As Walter Winchell said, “Gossip is the art of saying nothing in a way that leaves practically nothing unsaid.”

Sarcasm is an offshoot of gossip that is one of the most unladylike and difficult habits to conquer.  Sarcasm is biting, insincere, and often immature.  Insecure people need sarcasm to achieve their own security.  I have met girls who had to slice other people to shreds in order to be ‘funny’.  They may be, in some instances, but this habit is not only unbecoming but not an attribute to be associated with a Christian woman.  Sarcasm and gossip are often rooted in envy and jealousy as well as insecurity.  Actually, Jealousy, Envy and Gossip are the three daughters of insecurity.  Those who cannot be happy for another’s good fortune become a missionary of misery to all they come in contact with.  These people are miserable indeed.

The word ‘gossip’ brings to mind a more lengthy conversation, but there are ways to be cutting and very to-the-point as well.  Even in church.  “Can you believe she would wear that here?  You’d think she would know better…”  “Ugh, here she comes… come on, let’s go in the bathroom — quick!”  These insinuate what gossip elaborates upon.  It doesn’t take much to get the message across.

Often we feel ‘safe’ with certain friends to share the world’s secrets.  Sometimes we even feel safe enough to be sarcastic to that friend, or about other friends of hers.  You can never know how much that hurts.  For me, it hurts worse to have a friend mock another friend of mine than to have her mock me.  Having experienced this, I evaluated myself:  did I mock my friends’ associations?  Did I stab them in the back when it benefited me to do so?

Know this:  if you are with a gossip, and she reams someone in your confidence, you can bet she will do the same to you.  Everyone is fair game.  I confess I have been a gossip, although it didn’t start that way.  In my pride I thought myself good enough to share my assessments of others’ character with the world — when those biased and unkind thoughts should have never left my mouth.  So I challenge you to evaluate yourself in all honesty.  Do you find pleasure in mocking others?  Do you believe it is alright to tear down a person’s character simply because you don’t personally approve of them?  Ask yourself:  would you like to be mocked?  How many people do you think don’t approve of you, and say nothing? 

There is one solution to gossip, and there are two steps involved:

Step One:  Submit to Christ.

Step Two:  Shut up.

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Bridge Over Troubled Water

A troubled heart is one weighed with worry, or guilt.  It is a heart that is not free to enjoy life because of concern and anxiety.  A troubled mind is one consumed with thoughts that distract and dismay.  A troubled soul is one that is not right with God, and also man.  Troubles are caused by many things — and they affect each of us differently.  Often our troubles cease to simply be happening to us, but become us.  We become so consumed with our troubles that we become rather troublesome ourselves.

I have been a troublesome friend in the past.  I was conceited and contentious, always insisting on my own opinion as correct.  I was proud and selfish, seeking only my own gain and others’ attention.  I never let lie — I pursued, and prodded, and pushed with tongue and action.  I put up a facade of security, but deep down, I was very insecure.  I took out this trouble on all those who had the unfortunate circumstance of crossing paths with me. 

These habits of my lifestyle are not stowed in the archives of my ‘testimony’, meant to make you all marvel at how I have conquered them.  Yesterday I revived several of these vices in my own home.  I failed.  So I think:  why did I fail?  Why did I become troublesome?  I realized that it is because I let the troubles be my thermometer of emotion.  Rather than cast them on Christ, I held them close to my heart, which in turn made my heart a dark and dank place to venture.

Even in my troublesome nature, there have been friends who have endured.  These are the friends who somehow built a bridge over my troubles and crossed from their heart to mine, giving when I wasn’t worth giving to.  When I was angry, and ready to burn any bridge in sight, they built one anyway — because they are true friends.  They don’t depend on my emotions, my troubles, to dictate their own.  They love no matter what.

As I see my own actions, and then view theirs, I can see what sacrifices these people made in their friendship, or family relationship, to me.   Even while they let me rage and crash like a hurricane-ridden sea, they had the courage to build a bridge to me, and keep a connection — even when I have been less of a friend, daughter, or sister I could have been.

Those closest to us know when to build the bridge, even when we are emotionally disraught.  Their love is unconditional, and their faith, enduring.  I only hope I can be like them in the smallest way.