“If you don’t have anything nice to say, come sit by me!”- Clairee Belcher, Steel Magnolias
Gossip. It’s a strong word. Though everyone loves a good piece of dirt, gossip isn’t exactly a label you want associated with your name-amirite? Maybe it’s something about living in the south. Maybe since our words are naturally drawn out a little more and spoken a little slower…stories become a little more elaborate with every sentence…embellished if you will. And from a young age, we are taught, as long as you follow up the worst of “gossip” with a sympathetic “Bless their heart”, then it’s not gossip. It’s just concern.
That’s a lie, and we both know it. And I, although I’m not proud to admit it, have REALLY struggled in this department lately. Not so much with spreading rumors. I’m pretty skeptical to believe them in the first place. And I like to think I’m a pretty trustworthy person. Most anything told to me stays with me. I don’t go around telling what I know to anyone who will stop to listen. I don’t tell secrets or confidential prayer requests. But I do tend to vent here lately, a lot, about the frustrations in my life whether it be circumstances or people. And though names aren’t even mentioned most times, I find that my mouth tends to just vomit frustrations-especially with others-before I even had a chance to think.
I work in politics so I am no stranger to rumors, paranoia and the cost of speaking too much. Therefore, I often glance up at the quote “Talk less. Smile more. Don’t let them know what you’re against or what you’re for”, from the musical Hamilton when I am tempted to share my thoughts at work. I have it taped at eye level on my desk so that I can constantly have it in my sights. But that’s not always easy to implement around a group of girlfriends….or in small group….or at lunch with some of your office staff. Especially when your circumstances are less than ideal. Or when someone hurts your feelings. Or embarrasses you. And you desperately want to make yourself feel a little better by just “getting it off your chest”.
God gave us emotions on purpose. Sometimes we are going to get angry. There are going to be people around us that hurt our feelings that make us feel small-people we don’t like. There are going to be times we feel if we don’t talk about our feelings on various subjects or injustices, we will just burst. I know, I have been there so many times this week. But for the past two days, God has convicted my heart over and over on telling too much to the wrong people. God cautions us in Proverbs 21: 23 to watch our mouths saying “Whoever keeps his mouth and keeps his tongue keeps himself out of trouble”. Nothing totally detrimental has come from what I have or haven’t said this week other than having my feelings seriously hurt, but I have felt the consequences of “talking too much” in my heart and in my quiet time with God. I have also wondered-just as soon as the words exited my mouth-whether or not I hurt someone’s feelings. And y’all, I don’t like that feeling.
I think it’s completely healthy to “vent” to close, trustworthy friends and Christian mentors. People that can be trusted. People that love you regardless of the tears, fears and faults. People that will redirect your attention back to the Master Problem Solver and His Word. However, when we choose to vent to our acquaintances, small group sisters, Sunday school class, and waitress at lunch, sometimes even certain family members….we only open the door for Satan to take a foothold. Don’t misunderstand me-I don’t mean everyone who isn’t a personal friend isn’t trustworthy. However, God specifically instructs us in Proverbs 4:23 to guard our hearts above all else. I have found that allowing any and everybody the opportunity to know your temporary frustrations often leads to a permanent effect on the heart.
I learned that lesson this week, first hand. I let my emotions get the best of me and all but vomited my frustrations around a group of friends. Instead of sympathy-which is what I was longing for-I was greeted with well-intended but very hurtful comments instead.
Instead of responding, I just sat stunned and hurt. Though the comments made weren’t spiteful, they made a lasting impression on my heart.
God has been speaking healing and gentle instruction to me ever since.
It is important in this dark world to be genuine. To be a light. To be transparent. To love openly without reserve. Hurt feelings and disappointments will inevitably come regardless. However, we can be careful with our words and guard our hearts to protect us from Satan’s schemes against us.
As my friend Dianna always tells me “Preaching the Gospel to myself this morning”