Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Sometimes Silence is a Good Thing

“When words are many, sin is not absent,
but he who holds his tongue is wise.” Proverbs 10:19

Excuse me if I step on some toes, mine included…but, can we just stop blabbing and gabbing to each other ABOUT each other? As women, we have a particular affinity for taking information and passing it along as carelessly as trash littered along the highway. I have my own experiences getting caught in the web of gossip, filled with shame and remorse at the horrifying things I’ve said whether guised as a prayer request or not. The past few years, I’ve been a leader of a women’s Bible study in which we advocate encouraging and building each other up, speaking strongly against careless words said about anyone.
Recently, I discovered that someone spread vicious words to another about a young friend. I was sickened, disappointed, heartbroken. My friend, hurt and distraught, is fragile, as we all are. Lies and rumors swirl around her through media sources and the old-fashioned telephone game, and she is wounded like she’s just been through a sword fight. She thought Christian women were different. Well, we are supposed to be…aren’t we? Everything I read in the Bible tells me that I am held to a higher standard. Who can I trust if I can’t trust a fellow believer?
If I have no problem slaying and fileting my own, what does that say to the community of unbelievers? What does God think about me marring and mutilating His daughter, His creation?  Is there no safe place for me to share my feelings? Should I constantly worry about whether what I say is going to be spewed to another in a different venue?
Is there no hope for us in this toxic area? Even James says, “But no man can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.” (James 3:8) Goodness knows, I’ve bitten my tongue dozens of times, yet I’ve also let loose venom and hurt others more often than I care to confess. Haven’t we all felt that nudge not to share some interesting nougat we’ve just discovered? Haven’t we all ignored it? In the situation with my friend, the person who chose to sink ships with her lips didn’t heed the little voice. She jumped right in the muck and mire with both feet as I’ve done plenty of times.
How can we stop this poison? We certainly can’t do it on our own, without God, so let’s start with Him! John 15:5 says, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me, and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” If we are not stuck to Jesus, fixed to the Rock, we can’t do this.  We can’t do anything, including zipping our lips, without Him. Remaining in Him means being in His word. It’s extremely difficult to reflect His image if we don’t spend time knowing who He is and what we should be putting into practice. 
In addition, we need to pay attention to the gut feelings that say, “Don’t share that nice, juicy tidbit.” Proverbs 13:3 says, “(She) who guards (her) lips guards (her) life, but (she) who speaks rashly will come to ruin.” My mother, a church office assistant for many years, set the bar high in this area. She had plenty of opportunity to share the inside scoop, but she never did. She said that if information ever escaped, she never desired it to be from her. If you keep your mouth closed, your heart won’t condemn you and neither can others.
We also must be aware that our witness is being reflected to unbelievers as well as fellow believers. People are always watching us—our conversation, our attitude and our behavior.  Sadly, we don’t always look all that different from those who don’t know Christ.  We should be asking ourselves if others are attracted to Jesus by what they see in us. If the answer is no, our mouths need a transformation.
Have you ever shared your heart with another person only to hear that she had spread it far and wide? Not only are we hurt, embarrassed, angry, but we also realized that the woman we had confided in was untrustworthy. We learn to distance ourselves from someone like that. Do we want to be women whom others can trust? If we constantly break confidences, other women will not feel comfortable revealing their struggles to us. Once again, Proverbs speaks to this. “A gossip betrays a confidence, but a trustworthy (woman) keeps a secret.” (11:13)
The bottom line is we need to use our words to encourage one another not pass judgment, criticize or tear down. “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” (Ephesians 4:29) Let’s be conscious of the words we speak.

If what we have to share is not beneficial, we must choose to keep our lips sealed.

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