I have a strict definition of gossip that has come to me over the years: any time I am telling someone else’s story, I am gossiping. I am using another person’s story for my own purposes. Instead what I, what we should be doing is telling our own tales, being honest about who we are. That way we cannot harm anyone else, even remotely.
This is especially true in a spiritual setting, because everything should be held in confidence there. This view of gossip has come to me because of my work as a spiritual director. Every session I hold is in strictest confidence; nothing is to be shared. And so I have applied that vow of secrecy to everything I hear, no matter whether it was told to me in confidence or not. That way I am never tempted to share anything. It is far easier for me to not tell any tales than to only hold back some. And that’s why I don’t gossip.
Gossip is so destructive to the person being talked about who rarely has a chance to refute or explain what is being said. It’s especially destructive of any chance of trust in a church. It is antithetical to how Jesus taught us to be with others whether they are like us or not. If everything in a church is held as strictly in confidence, trust grows in Bible studies, in classes, in casual conversations. And slowly but surely, people begin to come out of their self-imposed silence about their inner states, their neediness, their pain and suffering. And healing begins to happen. And that is when integrity and faithfulness and love really begin to happen in a church, in a community.
Gossip—by pointing out another’s foibles– is the opposite of owning who we are. It’s a way of shining the spotlight on another. If our goal is to love God with all of ourselves, then we must begin to reveal who we are not just to God, but also to other people. A great way to open the gates to others’ stories is to tell our own—where we made mistakes, where we went wrong, where we were embarrassed and more. It is an important part of our journey to acknowledge all that we are and all that we have done and all that was done to us. To accept and to eventually forgive ourselves and others, even to love ourselves exactly as we are. And isn’t that the 2nd of Jesus’ two great commandments? To love our neighbor as we love ourselves. We cannot love others and all their humanness, if we cannot love our own.
And I contend that we cannot accept God’s love and forgiveness for us until we are able to crack the “unlovable code” in ourselves. As long as we refuse to apply our own love and forgiveness to ourselves, we will continue to reject everyone else’s love, including God’s. We settle for a severely truncated relationship with God, because we won’t allow Him to love us. We can’t have true relationships with others, because we can’t be real. We can “believe” that we are loved, but it never penetrates our own thinking and being. We can “think” that we trust God, but we are proving with every rejection of His love that we don’t.
One of the big issues on this journey with Christ is this: we have to give up our personal lens on ourselves and on life and adopt God’s broader perspective, the way He thinks about us and all His creation. So that means that our assumptions, our expectations, our personal lens have to go in favor of God’s ways.
If we can find one person to be honest with, or a small group where confidentiality is honored, then we can begin to reveal who we really are. To ourselves. To someone we trust. To begin the process of acknowledging all that we are means that we are becoming ready to reveal all of ourselves to God, to own all that we are. The ironic thing is that God already knows and accepts who we are—our mistakes, sources of guilt and shame, the good stuff, all of it—and still loves and forgives and welcomes us.
Read and reread the Parable of the Prodigal Son(and Daughter) in Luke 15:11-32 until you can apply it to yourself. See God awaiting your return—all aspects of you, see the celebration he arranges, see the absence of punishment or reproof, see you being restored as an heir in your Father’s house. See what the son has done—his acknowledgement of how he has screwed up and how he longs to return to his home. And begin to entertain that this story applies to you and me and to everyone.
Be the Lost Son or Daughter who is ready to return to his/her Father’s home. Be the one who comes burdened with guilt or shame, the one welcomed with open arms. Be the one who is celebrated, loved and forgiven. Be the one who is restored to his/her proper place. Be the beloved of God!
And then there is no longer any desire or need to gossip, to treat people unfairly; there is only the need to love others.
Questions to ponder over the week: Do I gossip about others and withhold the truth about myself? Do I wear a mask in public that hides who I really am? Do I trust that God loves me no matter my guilt and shame? Do I really trust God? Have I accepted that God loves me no matter what I have done, no matter what was done to me?
Blessing for the week: May we be the people of God who allow God to love us, embrace and even celebrate who we are. May we trust God in all aspects of our lives. May we love ourselves. May we live in integrity and wholeness.
My book, “Thy Kingdom Come!”, is up on Amazon in both paperback and Kindle versions. Look under Patricia Said Adams.
I have an essay published in an anthology of writings by Christian authors, entitled “What Can We Learn About Suffering From the Exodus Story.” The book is entitled “Let Hope Arise” by Authors for Christ and is available on Amazon.
If you want to read the entire post for this week, check it out at www.bythewaters.net/blog/html. Also, check out the archives of all my posts going back to 2011.
I’ve posted links to all the videos I’ve done on my website and highlighted the best one(in my opinion): “On Eagle’s Wings.” Check it out at http://bythewaters.net/videos.php.