While vacationing recently in Costa Rica, Kathy and I had the pleasure of staying at a beautiful B&B in the central valley near San Jose. The innkeeper was a remarkable elderly widower who was strong in her faith and equally strong in her wisdom on life. Each morning Kathy and I would enjoy our conversations about life, love and living out our faith in a way that was honoring to the Lord.
One morning during our stay, our host commented about the incredible damaging power of the tongue. She shared that she had been convicted lately about talking about others in a negative way and she shared about the damage that comes along with this kind of conversation. I completely agreed with her. Gossip and talking about others behind their back is a very easy thing to do. I shared that I thought that talking about others can actually be a kind of entertainment- the act of talking about others and their problems can actually be fun for some and a source of enjoyment.
My comments actually knocked her back a bit. She commented on how my characterization of “entertainment” was especially painful to her as it seemed to hit the mark. She pondered the description and we revisited this topic a few times during our stay as a result of my description of damaging talk and gossip- entertainment.
So what do you think? Do you know some folks that seem to enjoy gossiping and talking negatively about others? What can you do when you are confronted with someone who wants to rope you in? Here are some ideas:
Respond With The Positive! If they are focusing on merely the negative- then respond in a way that would honor the person. Regardless of the discussion, there are always positive aspects to the story. Bring up the good and stay out of the mud. You will see that most gossips just won’t get any enjoyment out of the positive. By focusing on the negative they are really lifting themselves up. Be a person who builds up- not a person that tears down.
Confront Them! If they are speaking out in a way that is damaging for no constructive purpose then call them out. There are folks that really don’t realize they are being negative or damaging- they are so used to gossiping they really don’t see what they are doing. Help them to see that speaking out has power and can be extremely damaging.
Walk Away! If you have friends engaged in damaging conversation and you feel uncomfortable about the discussion, then have the courage to leave. Even by sitting in silence- you are participating. If you are not comfortable with confronting the issues or if you are not familiar with the situation, the best choice may be to leave the conversation. You will not regret walking away- you will regret being included if the cruelty spreads.
Think Before You Talk! I am convinced that some peoples mouths just run faster than their heads. Take a minute to really consider what you are about to say. Thinking about something is far different than speaking it- and that expands even further when it’s to a group of people. If you have to say “don’t repeat this but…” you probably need to think about it a little more before you say it. You could be reading the situation wrong, you may have bad information, you may be misinformed. Always default to keeping you mouth shut if you are not sure what to do.
Remember that you are a leader. Others are watching you and learning from you- both good and bad. Character and integrity are time sensitive. They take a long time to gain yet they can be lost in an instant. Don’t loose something that you will really regret later. If you are uneasy about the conversation, then you know you should not participate. Stay out of it. Go find your entertainment elsewhere!