“A gossip betrays a confidence, but a trustworthy person keeps a secret.” Proverbs 11:13 (NIV)
You’re hanging out with friends. Sharing a meal, sharing your lives. Someone’s name comes up. Someone who isn’t there.
A comment is made. “Have you seen ______?” Then another. “Well, I heard ______.”
Once people realize you know the person they’re talking about better than anyone else at the table, heads turn in your direction. Faces look at you expectantly. What happens next depends on how willing you are to honor today’s key verse from Proverbs and the One who wrote it.
We often think of gossip as a verb — something we do. But here it’s a noun — something we are: “A gossip betrays a confidence, but a trustworthy person keeps a secret” (Proverbs 11:13).
Whether we’re aware of it or not, gossip is often fueled by a desperate need for attention. Look at me. Listen to me. I know a secret. I must be special.
For some people, this sort of behavior isn’t even a temptation, let alone a common practice. We wouldn’t dream of wounding a friend or betraying another’s trust. When we say, “Your secret is safe with me,” we mean it. If you beg us, “Don’t tell anyone,” we don’t. My friend Rebecca is like this; a co-worker called her “The Vault.”
But others feel uncomfortable when the topic of gossip comes up. Frankly, we enjoy passing along some interesting story we’ve heard. We don’t consider ourselves heartless or thoughtless — mainly just curious and gregarious. What we see, we share. What we discover, we uncover. If we promise not to tell, we won’t, but if no such promise is made, we convince ourselves we mean no harm.
Only you and the Lord know which description fits you. I confess, I fall in both camps: totally zipped lips with the big stuff that truly matters, then less careful with the small stuff that seems insignificant (but really isn’t).
For all who walk in victory, praise God. For those of us who still struggle, He is willing and able to remake us into trustworthy people. Even if talking about others is deeply ingrained in our nature, God is able to change us through the transforming power of the Holy Spirit, who can keep us from sharing private confidences meant for our ears alone.
Alas, it took me a long time to learn this.
In my early years of writing and speaking, my favorite stories were about my kids. Some incidents were funny, others tender and all were real-life relatable. How could I go wrong? I’ll tell you how — by not asking my child’s permission to share them.
After an especially bad day at school, our daughter who was 10 at the time, posted a handwritten sign on her bedroom door that urged us to STAY OUT, including a list of reasons that were (I confess) highly amusing. Always grateful for new material, I laminated her sign and stuck it in the binder with my speaking notes. Audiences loved the story, and it was great fun to share — until the day Lilly found her sign in my binder.
“Mom!” Her eyes widened in dismay. “Why did you save this? And why is it in here?”
My face grew hot with shame. What could I say? That I’d told thousands of people about her bad day at school and her funny way of handling it? Even though I always ended the story on a sweet note, with her snuggled in my arms, nothing could erase the sad truth that I’d broadcast her words without asking if I could.
I apologized profusely. Begged her forgiveness. Asked her permission to share what I’d learned. And discovered a valuable (and humbling) lesson: Loose lips sink relationships. Trust is the buoy that keeps them afloat.
Heavenly Father, help me see “sharing” for what it truly is: thoughtless, careless, pointless gossip. Forgive me. Guide me. Lock my lips, and set me free. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
TRUTH FOR TODAY:
Proverbs 21:23, “Those who guard their mouths and their tongues keep themselves from calamity.” (NIV)
Proverbs 16:28, “A perverse person stirs up conflict, and a gossip separates close friends.” (NIV)
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REFLECT AND RESPOND:
Think of something recently shared with you in confidence. If you struggle with loose lips, pray and ask God to help you guard your mouth and tongue and leave this secret safely in His hands. Commit to speaking only to the Lord about this person in prayer.
© 2017 by Liz Curtis Higgs. All rights reserved.