When the ugliness of gossip reveals the beauty of friendship


We’ve all been there.  The place where you open your mouth when you should have kept it closed.  The place where you unintentionally created a mess that you wish could be cleaned with a wet wipe, erased forever.  The place where words escape our lips that hurt someone we never intended to hurt.

These are the moments we could live without.

Satan loves when we are in this place.  Because when we are in this place, if we aren’t careful, sin can mount one on top of another.  The deeper we are caught in sin, the more difficult it becomes for us to see the light.  We can become so focused on the issues, that we lose sight of the One who desires to sanctify us.

I’ve had my fair share of these situations.  And recently I watched one of my children struggle through it.  How I wished it were me.  But it wasn’t.  This time.  It was one of mine.  One who is thoughtful and tender-hearted, kind and compassionate.  His typical sin patterns are in other areas, not this one.

Gossip.  Gossip isn’t just a sin that 14-year-old girls struggle with.  It’s one that every single one of us faces at one time or another.  We can mask it with something like, “Hey, so and so really needs us to pray for them right now.  Did you know that…..”  We can make our gossip sound holy if we try just a little.  Gossip isn’t just malicious talk.  It is “light chat or talk”.  It is idly talking about the affairs of others.

Besides how gossip affects the person being talked about, it affects us.  It affects the one doing the talking.  Often gossip is an effort to build ourselves up.  To make ourselves appear better than the other person.  Suddenly, we are smarter, a harder worker, luckier, whatever. We are something more than they are.  Pride begins to grow.  And it is an ugly monster that is often seen easier by others than by ourselves in our own lives.  Pride is the root of so many other sins.

The moment he walked through that door, I knew something was eating him alive.  His conscience.  Or better yet, the Holy Spirit planned to prick his heart without ceasing until he cried uncle, which he finally did.

“Mom, I did the stupidest thing today.  I don’t know why I did it.”  And he broke down.  He explained how he was talking to a group of friends and told them how one of his friends (who wasn’t there at the moment) had a crush on someone else (also not there at the moment).  And how another friend overheard and told him that he was going to tell the friend being talked about.

As I listened to him telling the story, I was transported back to my childhood when I lived through these same exact type of moments.  It’s part of childhood, it’s part of school, but more importantly, it’s part of how God grows us.  Through our failures.  Through our weaknesses.  Through our sins.  Through our repentance.

I’m grateful to the friend who threatened to tell on my child.  God used that child as an instrument in the life of my child to bring him to repentance.  Initially, all he could talk about was how upset he was at the friend threatening to tell on him.

“But, honey, you have to hear this.  What you did was wrong.  Forget what anyone else did for a moment.  Look at the part YOU played in this.  Look at the situation you created.  If you hadn’t said what you said, this friend would have nothing to tell on you.  You sinned first.  And your sin has caused someone else to sin.  Do you see the danger of sin?  It doesn’t just affect us.  It affects everyone around us.  Our sin can cause others to sin.  If we guard our own hearts, we can encourage our friends against sinning.”

We had to have this conversation about 5 times before it sank in.  He blurted out, “I feel like God is slapping me in the face.”

“He is most certainly not!  In His kindness, He is bringing you to repentance.”  And thank God for that!

“Let’s pray right now.”  He rolled his eyes as I walked to the shelf where my Bible resides.

“Mom, really?”

“Yes, God’s Word is where we need to be right now.”

I read to him Proverbs 16:28 “A perverse man stirs up dissension, and a gossip separates close friends.”

Proverbs 20:19 “A gossip betrays a confidence; so avoid a man who talks too much.”

Proverbs 26:20 “Without wood a fire goes out; without gossip a quarrel dies down.”

“This is not who God wants you to be.  And it’s not who you are.  Do you see what God’s Word has to say about gossip?”

“This is what we have to do.  I’m going to speak to the friend’s mom who is saying he is going to tell your other friend.  Meanwhile, you should consider calling your friend you gossiped about and coming clean.  Tell him what you said.  Tell him you are sorry and that you wished you had never done it.  Ask God to forgive you, which He will.  And you will sleep better tonight.  You will have stopped this from progressing.  You will have a clean heart.  And you will have learned never to do this again.”

“Mom, I can’t do that.  He will kill me.  He is so big and I’m like an ant compared to him!”

“You can do this.  He is your friend.  When you do the right thing, he will likely forgive you. You may be surprised at how your friendship gets even better.”

After his dad gave him the exact same advice, he came to me and said, “Can I call him now?”

So we did.  I spoke with the mom explaining what had happened and that my child wanted to make this right, handed the phone to my boy, and walked down the hall.  Tears welled up in my eyes as I listened to this child confess to his friend what he had done wrong.  “I want to tell you that I’m very sorry for what I did.  Today at lunch, I told some people you had a crush on someone.  I wish I hadn’t done that and I’m very sorry.”  The friend forgave him, the conversation ended, and he came back to me a different child.

“Oh my gosh, I feel so much better.  You and dad were so right.”

After school the next day, he came home and said, “You know my friend was even nicer to me than normal today.  And he is always nice to me.”

“Funny, how that happens.  I really believe that we develop deep, true friendships when we are real with each other.  We all sin.  We all mess up.  It takes a special person to admit their faults and ask forgiveness.  Your friend now knows that you really care about him.  You care enough about the friendship that you were willing to lose it.  Or get beat up,” I laughed.

A dose of realness is what we all need.  We live in a culture that tempts us to live under a facade of perfection.   A state of being where we don’t allow ourselves the grace to mess up.  Where we have a hard time admitting our faults because when we do then others may see the real us.

But the real us is who the world needs to see.  The real us.  The one who makes mistakes.  The one who opens his mouth and says careless words about a friend.  The one who doesn’t have it all together.  The one who is WRONG.  Yes, we are all wrong from time to time.  When we can admit our faults, when we can see that we played a part in the problem at hand, that is when God can use us.  That is when satan is messed with.

And in a world where we want people to like us and we want to keep people from being mad at us,  the best way to accomplish this is to be boldly raw.  Totally transparent.  Uncomfortably genuine.  The person that God created is the real you.  Not the one we think people want to see.  They want to connect.  And they can’t connect with what isn’t real.  Not on a deep level anyway.

I watched Christ at work through my child.  And as usual, when God is working on my child, He is also working on me.  I’m convinced every relationship God grants to us is an effort to sanctify us.  Relationships are challenging.  But when we can be real, the depth and beauty of that relationship is far greater than we could ever imagine.

******I drafted this post and saved it to post at a later date.  The afternoon I finished drafting the post, I spent some time with a friend.  As our children played, we chatted and caught up.  In conversation that started out innocently, before we knew what had happened, we found ourselves in a similar situation I had just written about.  

She asked a question.  I answered.  She asked another.  I answered.  But I shouldn’t have answered the way I did.  I should have stopped and explained why I couldn’t go further.  

She and I felt the Holy Spirit instantly convicting our hearts.  She apologized.  I apologized.  We both recognized our faults.  And then I shared further with her about how I had just written about exactly what she and I had just experienced together.  

Though I felt awful for sinning in the area of gossip, I was grateful I failed in that exact area at that exact moment.  We never have sin under wraps.  We never truly conquer any particular sin or sin pattern.  We are all one step away at all times.  The good news is that Christ is there if we accept.  And though we will still sin, we are completely forgiven.  And the freedom in that is priceless.  

I was reminded that afternoon with my friend that relying on Christ is a moment by moment necessity.  The minute we begin to puff up and feel any sin is a thing of our past, we are one step closer to falling.  But when we are uncomfortably raw with the friends God places in our lives, then we are one step closer to Him.  Because in those rich friendships, when the ugliness is revealed, shared, and redeemed, we can experience Christ together with the ones He has blessed us with.  And I can’t imagine this life without the beauty of true, genuine, authentic friends who see my mess and choose to love me anyway.*********

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