Cultivating Discretion

 

I recently had an experience where a friend texted me and said “I will never be able to give you the details of the situation but I’m very worried about _______ and I’m asking you to pray.” She later texted me to let me know that everything was going to be OK.

15 years ago, I might have persistently asked probing questions like “what is going on? Or, “Can you tell me now?” Now, however, I would like to hope I have grown more in the area of discretion so that not knowing the answers to every question or all the details about a situation is not going to be a source of insecurity to me.

If you have ever been on the receiving end of gossip (i.e. the one being gossiped to) you might have felt the thrill of knowing something that somebody else doesn’t know or having the inside scoop. We would all be liars if we said we had never, once felt the fleeting bit of satisfaction that comes from having information on a situation that doesn’t necessarily concern us.

Maybe you’ve heard gossip in the “prayer request” form: “Pray for Susie. Here’s a list of the sins she’s struggling with, even though she isn’t asking for prayer about them.”

Does this mean we never ask for prayer for people who have obvious issues going on in their life? No, of course not! But as a lady I know once said, covering someone or something in love doesn’t mean we don’t deal with issues or talk about them or pray for them; it means we keep the unnecessary people out of the room until the appropriate people can come help.

 

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Believe me, I know that this is no easy task, and I personally believe it’s especially difficult if you’re a woman. Our nature is to want to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. We want details. We want information. We want to ensure that everything is going to be just fine, even if it’s none of our business, and before we know it, we have a full-grown “Gossip Monster” on our hands.

But if we want to be the worthy, valiant women we are called to be, we need to work at cultivating discretion in our lives so that what grows instead is trustworthiness and fertile ground for faithful friendships to take deep root.

Cultivating discretion does not mean stopping gossip after you’ve heard it, or rebuking the gossiper after they’ve given you all the juicy bits. It means creating a life that does not invite gossip. It means filling up your friendships with everything good and true and beautiful so that gossip has no place. It means that when we bear each other’s burdens we are not taking on a burden that isn’t ours to know about.

 

But if we want to be the worthy, valiant women we are called to be, we need to work at cultivating discretion in our lives so that what grows instead is trustworthiness and fertile ground for faithful friendships to take deep root.

 

 

If you’ve ever been the person who was gossiped about or if you’ve been slandered, then you instinctively know this is wrong. You’ve experienced the pain and often devastation that comes from finding out that someone has been talking about you, perhaps speaking untruths about youAnd to make matters worse, you never even had the opportunity to defend yourself or explain the situation from your own perspective. People who have been through this experience, ought to know all the more to guard their speech.

Our experience, however, is not the only reason for us to pursue cultivating discretion in our speech. There is a much deeper purpose and reason than our own personally painful reality.

We serve a God who used words to form and shape the world and everything in it, and then sent the Word made flesh to redeem His creation. He places a high value on the words we choose and how we choose to use them. Satan knew the value of words, which is why he twisted the truth to plant deception and to manipulate and provoke unbelief in Eve.

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This is such an important issue that it is in our best interest to find out why the “the Gossip Monster” is present and who or what is feeding it. People gossip and slander for many different reasons but I believe that most of the time, the heart of gossip (and its counterpart, slander) is ultimately fear and pride. We fear how others might perceive us, so we tell the story a certain way, ensuring that we come out looking sparkly and shiny and the other person… well, not so much. We have a deep need to control a situation and more importantly, to safeguard the narrative because God-forbid any of us might need to confess sin in the midst of the story.

Another reason we often fall into gossip (especially when we are listening to gossip) is because we are trying to help a situation.  But solutions to difficulties are rarely, if ever, brought about by uninvolved persons discussing all the guilty parties and their varying roles, hashing out solutions to problems that aren’t ours to solve.

 

We need to recognize that we can have hard, honest conversations, woman to woman, without them devolving into gossip and slander sessions. Cultivating discretion in our speech and caring for others are not ideas that are antithetical to each other. Rather, they are necessarily friends that should walk hand in hand.

 

We need to recognize that we can have hard, honest conversations, woman to woman, without them devolving into gossip and slander sessions.

 

When we are speaking, telling stories, explaining situations, we need to ask ourselves the hard questions:

Am I rejoicing in evil or rejoicing in the truth? Am I speaking as one who believes and hopes all things? (1 Corinthians 13)

Am I being a woman who is pursuing peace or am I stirring up trouble or promoting discord by the way I talk about others?

Is my mouth acting like a servant of Jesus Christ? Am I using my mouth to break or to build?

What will grow when I speak? Will it be the “Gossip Monster” or will a relationship be able to flourish because of how I used my tongue?

 

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Whether we are the one who gossiped, the one who has been listening to the gossip, or the one being gossiped about, we can run to Jesus.

 

There really is help and hope for every one of us on every side of the gossiping chain. Whether we are the one who gossiped, the one who has been listening to the gossip, or the one being gossiped about, we can run to Jesus. We serve the God Who Sees, and He is the ultimate truth-teller. He shines his light into the darkest places of our hearts, revealing our insecurities, our fear, our need for control, our misuse of words. Ask Him to shine His light in to reveal what needs to be changed, confess your sin to Him, and know the peace that comes from having all your shame taken by Him.

Jesus knows the pain of being slandered – it cost Him His life. He paid for all our gossiping with His precious blood. He covered all our eager listening when He covered our sins. He transforms us into people who use our words as a conduit of His grace and mercy, and He restores relationships broken by words.

Jesus will give us the strength and the tools to fight this battle that we truly must fight. The growth may feel slow, but by His grace, every effort we put into cultivating discretion in lives and our speech will bear fruit in our lives and in the lives of those we are called to love.

 

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