It took all the self-control I could muster, and then some, not to tell what I knew about Joe. It was such a funny story – hilarious, really! But I knew Joe probably didn’t see it that way. But he would never know. After all, what’s the harm in a little innocent gossip?
My lips were just burning to share … as a matter of fact, I had to excuse myself from our table at Casa Ole just to keep from bursting into laughter! But, in spite of the fact that I missed my chance to be the life of the party, I’m glad I kept my mouth shut. I’ve been the victim of gossip. In a split-second decision, I decided not to be the perpetrator of the very crime that has brought me pain and embarrassment.
Let’s be honest. Is there anyone reading this who has perfect control over his/her speech? Sometimes, those unkind words slip out before we even realize what has happened. But when we gossip and slander, we hurt those we talk about, and we hurt ourselves as well! For when we speak negatively about others, we send the message that we are not trustworthy.
We announce to others that we can’t keep a secret, that we’re not loyal, that we have loose lips and unkind hearts. And though people may listen wholeheartedly to our unkind, unnecessary words, those same people will make mental notes to keep their distance from us.
But controlling our speech is difficult. Impossible, really. So how in the world are we supposed to stop ourselves? Here are some practical tips for controlling our “hot lips”:
1. When we start to say something negative about someone, we can force ourselves to say something positive instead! (And I don’t mean sarcasm, either.)
2. We can change the subject. My mother once told me that classy people talk about things, not people. Try discussing sports, music or under-water basket-weaving!
3. Finally, we can always choose to walk away from any conversation that is unkind, gossipy, slanderous … We each have a free will, and we don’t have to participate in negative, hurtful speech.
Others may think we’re odd when we choose not to join in with the latest juicy morsels of gossip. But those same people will respect us and trust us. And in the long run, the good names we will earn for ourselves will be much more rewarding than any brief moment of popularity gained by delivering gossip and slander.
So, I returned to the table determined not to spill the beans. Joe was still the topic of conversation, so I interjected, “You know, Joe makes the best home-made salsa I have ever tasted. Speaking of salsa, I think I’d like some more chips. Waitress!”
A man who lacks judgment derides his neighbor, but a man of understanding holds his tongue. A gossip betrays a confidence, but a trustworthy man keeps a secret. —Proverbs 11:12-13, NIV