2005-07-08 - Rumors
Have you ever been a victim of a rumor? Have you ever passed one along? Most of us have probably been in both camps. I was recently the victim of some deceitful stories passed along by a former friend who had "an ax to grind." It hasn't been fun, but good has come of it, a la Romans 8:28. I found out who my true friends were, for your true friends are the ones that don't believe the worst about you, and who come to you with the stories, asking at the very least, to hear your side. I know that some of the rest of you have to deal with this, and I hope and pray God will use this to help you.
What does God's word have to say about rumors, gossip?
Both the Old and the New Testaments have instructions regarding gossip. Paul warns against it in 2 Corinthians 12:20:
For I am afraid that when I come I may not find you as I want you to be, and you may not find me as you want me to be. I fear that there may be quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, factions, slander, gossip, arrogance and disorder.
So what should we do when we are faced with gossip? If we are the victim, we are required to forgive the person who is slandering us. Christ taught us to love and forgive them. However, that does not mean we have to pretend it didn't happen. In fact, that would be a disfavor to the person who is spreading the stories. Rather, we are to go to that person (unless they have indicated they don't wish to speak to us), in a Christlike demeanor, and express our concern, never lowering ourselves to the level of returning "tit for tat." Pray for that person, for there is unhappiness in their heart, if they enjoy spreading tales about others.
It's okay to defend ourselves. Paul himself did it from time to time. However, to get too enmeshed in this process usually just makes things worse, belaboring it. If they believe the worst about you, "dust off your feet," continue to love them as human beings and leave it in the Lord's hands.
If you are on the other end, and hear something negative about another person, ask yourself a couple questions:
What is this person's motive for telling me this? Does this person have an "ax to grind" against the person they are slandering? What good can come from her/him telling you this? Do these stories line up with what you know of the character of this person? Does this person, with the gossip, have a history of sowing dissension between people?
You have several options. You can tell them, as I have been known to do, and as some of my true friends did, "that doesn't sound like so-and-so. I would like to hear her/his side of it." You can even invite that person to accompany you, as you talk to the person the rumor concerns. Or you can kindly tell the person you prefer not to hear gossip, for it is unedifying.
The next time you hear something bad about another person, before you pass it along, stop to think that it takes years to build a reputation, but seconds to put it under a dark cloud. There are always two sides to every story, and we sometimes forget that, when talking to a persuasive or manipulative person. Most importantly, before you do anything with a piece of gossip, pray, pray, then pray some more.