Honesty Without Gossip?

One of the biggest lessons we can learn from Deb and Shelly is the final post in this series: genuine biblical fellowship and friendship comes from “walking in the light” with one another (1 John 1:7). Walking in the light means we live open lives that resist the common temptation to hide.

Gossip, which we learned from Ken Sande last week, is sinful and tears others down. It shows immaturity and is ungodly. However, sometimes we have to graciously disclose the weaknesses or sins of others when those failures affect our lives. Can we do that without gossiping?

Some years back I spoke with a wife who was struggling in her marriage. Her understanding of gossip verses humility resulted in putting all the focus on her own contributions to the problems in the marriage. She was eager to acknowledge patterns of anger and disrespect toward her husband that were making things tense between them. Any questions I asked about their struggles resulted in mild defenses of her husband — his work load, fatigue and pressures he felt from his family. I had no intention of allowing our interactions to become gossip sessions about her husband, but her conscience disallowed her from admitting to any ways in which her husband was adding to their problems.

Years later she became desperate enough to be honest. She admitted his consistent verbal attacks and unfounded jealous rages. He regularly belittled and criticized her in front of the children. It had been years since he showed her affection or said he loved her.

This wife was a godly woman. She was so afraid of tarnishing her husband’s reputation in the church and succumbing to gossip that she wasn’t fulfilling her helper design. Rather than lovingly calling her husband to account for his sin and following biblical teaching to invite others into their marriage when he didn’t listen to her, she allowed his manipulative and sinful patterns to continue with her silence. Once things got bad enough for concerns about the effects of everything on their children, she opened up.

And when she did, regret over her silence poured out with tears.

When relational conflict, disappointment or sin occur what can we do?

  • Realize that God is near.
  • Remember that sin is common. Every marriage is a relationship between sinners and anyone who thinks or communicates otherwise is possibly protecting someone’s reputation, too.
  • Honestly can happen without gossip.
  • If necessary, you don’t have to use names but can keep the conversation anonymous.
  • Choose your confidant/counselor wisely. Consider the maturity level of the person in whom you’re confiding and select someone that will be both compassionate and discerning enough to not assume your perspective on the situation is 100% accurate. After all, all of us are prone to interpreting and communicating things through out own eyes.
  • Sometimes the most loving thing to do is gain counsel and wisdom (first from the scriptures and then from godly friends, pastors or counselors) so you can humbly confront their sin.
  • God will let you know if you engage in sinful speech. Don’t fear gossip; resist it then trust God to convict you if it happens.

I wish I could say the marriage I described above turned out well. Honestly, I don’t know what happened. I lost track of the wife and can only hope she is well. If you are struggling in a relationship with a spouse, child, family member, friend or boss please get help. Ask the Lord to give you strength to resist the temptation to use your words to punish this person through gossip, but don’t be dishonest. If you choose a wise and godly confidant, he or she will help you to see anything amiss in your own heart — hopefully only after you have been compassionately heard and comforted.

I pray you have that person or two in your life. Whether you do or don’t, there’s a throne of grace you can run to for mercy and help. And the Person sitting there is eager to help you.


6 thoughts on “Honesty Without Gossip?

  1. Sheree, this is excellent. I am learning this exact lesson in class this week. After learning about spousal abuse, many times just verbally, and the way that husbands justify their actions by saying that their abusing their wives is the wife’s fault because she was supposed to ‘submit’ to him is just horrifying. Many Christian men have the mistaken idea that since their wives are supposed to submit to them, that that gives them a right to bully them around, according to the Scriptures. We learned that even men who are pastors are guilty of doing this. I am aware that women can manipulate men as well, but it is usually the man who does it under the guise of ‘wives submit to your own husbands’ ( a verse that is taken out of context to justify bullying). And when the husband is a pastor, or has a high rank in the church, it makes it even harder for the wife to report it, because now she also has to risk her husband’s reputation. God have mercy on all of us! Susan

    • Thanks for your comment. Yes, it’s doubly hard when the abusing person is supposed to be trustworthy. When the shepherd, the one who is supposed to care for and protect the sheep, hurts them it’s disorienting in a unique way. I’m grateful (and jealous!…ha) that you are getting this wondering training, Susan. What a blessing to be sitting under this teaching. I pray the Lord uses you to help many!

  2. Sheree
    I am so glad you shared this about biblical fellowship and friendship. The line between of gossiping and helping can get blurred at times, yet we need to be able to come to one another for comfort and prayer. Another aspect of these situations is forgiveness for the ones who are in sin. As we pray for hurting friends, we must guard our hearts against bitterness toward those who are the cause of the pain. We must allow them space to grow and change, if they will, and accept them as healed, if they are. It is too easy to see a child or husband of a friend, and remember prayers spoken for them, and judge them.

    Just a thought.

    • Excellent point, Rose. Thank you for bringing this up. Part of the process of choosing a mature person to open up our hearts with means they must be willing not to take up our offense. While compassion is warranted and needed, becoming bitter at the person who has hurt us isn’t the solution, is it? Christians do change, by God’s grace. If we hang on to past sins on other’s part and hold those sins against them, we are not serving ourselves or others well.

      Thanks again!

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