As Christians, we know we aren’t supposed to be whisperers who reveal others’ secrets (Proverbs 11:13 and 16:28), but as humans, we love to have something juicy to tell, don’t we?
God recently used an unexpected confrontation to teach me a powerful lesson about gossip cloaked as the “innocent” need to know I was not alone in an offense. I was a talebearer revealing secrets, when what I want to be is “a faithful spirit (who) conceals a matter” (Proverbs 11:13).
Here’s what happened. Casual small talk with a friend became an awkward conversation as this person abruptly informed me they were offended by certain circumstances that were out of my control. After hearing them out, I could totally see how they came to a hurtful conclusion, but their interpretation was not reality.
A part of me was glad they said something, because I’m tired of white elephants living unaddressed in the middle of relationships thinking it creates peace. It doesn’t.
The other part of me was aghast! How dare they?!?! I wasn’t even the right person to confront!
In my mind, I entertained righteous indignation: I would never have done that!
The real wrong, though, is what I did after the confrontation: I told.
“I can’t believe what just happened to me…,” I huffed as I reenacted the conversation for a friend.
And the Holy Spirit nudged.
Still, I told another friend. And another.
And the Holy Spirit nudged.
Again (yes, again), winding down at the end of our day, I dramatically recounted the tale to my husband, “Oh, so guess what happened to me today…” And my tongue wagged the details once more, closing with an exasperated, “Can you believe it!?!?”
It’s okay, I told myself. He’s my husband after all. I tell him everything.
And the familiar tug of the Holy Spirit became a yank.
“What are you doing, Shauna?” I heard Him say to me, not audibly, but clearly.
And then the admonition. The instruction. The redirection:
“My word says, love covers a multitude of sins. You are uncovering.”
I knew the verse: “And above all things have fervent love for one another, for ‘love will cover a multitude of sins’” (1 Peter 4:8). I couldn’t even claim ignorance. I was guilty as charged.
I justified my gossip as a need for affirmation in my offense and exposed what I considered another person’s wrongs. By asking, “Am I crazy? Would you ever do something like that?” I told myself I was simply making sure my mindset was appropriate. But that’s not really what I was doing. It’s more likely I was looking for approval for my offense or sympathy for having to endure such an uncomfortable confrontation. I wanted company in my discomfort. No matter what the motivation, it was not for the other person’s good. It was purely selfish and self-serving.
I thought about Noah in Genesis 9:20-27, when he gets drunk on wine from his vineyard and his son, Ham, finds him naked in his tent. Scripture does not give the exact conversation he has with his brothers, Shem and Japheth, but could it have been similar to the ones I had?
Perhaps Ham ran to his brothers with what he considered to be a juicy story: “Guys, you won’t believe what just happened! You’ve got to come see what dad’s done!”
But instead of getting hooked into Ham’s disrespect and dishonor, thus perpetuating Noah’s shame, Shem and Japheth take a garment, walk BACKWARD with it into their father’s tent, and drape it on him, covering him as they do.
They do not even gaze at his nakedness.
Their love covers his sin. His shame. His indecency. His improper behavior.
Isn’t this what Jesus does for us when He saves us? His love covers our multitude of sins, and because of His love, we are to do the same for others. Not in the sense of hiding sin, but in the sense of extending grace to others because we’re so aware of our own equal and many times greater need for it.
When we are offended or otherwise discover another’s indiscretion or sin, even if we’re right about it, the temptation to tell is from the pit of hell. To the contrary, tight lips are a garment of grace.
Love covers a multitude of sins, and many times the covering needs to be our closed mouth.
[NOTE: I am not saying to hide physical, sexual or emotional abuse or when someone commits a crime. We have laws and authorities who deal with crimes, and when that’s the “secret,” we absolutely tell someone else. We remove ourselves from the danger, and we get help. What I am addressing here is when we’re offended or hurt by another and it doesn’t demand legal recourse.]
As a normal human, have you been tempted to gossip even though you know as a Christian you’re not supposed to? What did you do? Were you a talebearer revealing secrets or a faithful spirit who concealed the matter?
A whisperer, according to Proverbs 16:28, separates close friends. Our gossip divides and destroys relationships: with God and with others, inside and outside the church. Consider a time when someone betrayed a secret. How did it feel? Conversely, how does it feel when you know someone can be unquestionably trusted to keep your confidence? Now, consider what it would be like to know you are a faithful spirit who can be trusted not to tell another’s secret.
What if we could know that all our brothers and sisters in Christ who could be trusted? What a powerful witness to the world of the trustworthiness and faithfulness of God when His people are found to be trustworthy and faithful!
Next time you’re tempted to tell, ask yourself: Is this unwholesome talk or is it helpful for building others up according to their needs, and will it benefit those who listen (Ephesians 4:29)?
If we can’t answer yes, then let’s zip our lips.