By Michelle Stimpson
Let’s face it ladies: we’ve got a bad reputation when it comes to conversation. Though the Bible tells us explicitly that our mouths are not to be used for both cursing and blessing (Jas. 3:10), this is an area that continues to challenge us daily. Quickly, grab your cell phone and review your call log. Thinking of the last three personal conversations you had on this phone, answer these questions as only you can.
- Were those conversations godly?
- If someone had been eavesdropping, would they have known that you are a Christian?
- If you had to rate your conversation from 1 (totally sinful) to 10 (totally godly), how would you rate it?
Now compare these conversations with the last few personal emails you sent. Answer the same questions. Better there?
The funny thing about email is that we have a chance to review what we say before pressing the “send” button. Email gives us the opportunity to rephrase and rethink our message for optimal communication. Another reason that email may not be as rough as our speech is because we know that an email can be saved, printed, and shared. Our words are immortalized in email, for better or for worse, and we are all the more cautious for it.
In comparison to email, the spoken word seems fleeting and traceless. The key word, however, is “seems.” While we may quickly forget the words that flash across our screens, spoken words sometimes stick with us for hours, weeks, months, years, or a lifetime. Our words keep sending and resending themselves long after our lips have stopped moving. Furthermore, despite the fact that there is no written record of what we say, God is privy to our every utterance. What we say (or don’t say) speaks volumes about our walk with Christ.
In her book entitled A Woman’s High Calling, Elizabeth George calls godly speech the mark of a “spiritually mature” woman; a sure sign that a woman has reached the point in her spiritual growth where her words align with God’s influence in her life. To that effect, Deborah Smith Pegues’s book, 30 Days to Taming Your Tongue, explores the causes, effects, and variations of mouth-abuse. Among the areas of concern: The Gossiping Tongue, the Self-Deprecating Tongue, and the Silent Tongue.
The Gossiping Tongue
What it is: Gossip is idle and/or malevolent talk about someone else’s personal business. Gossip is often shared for a variety of “reasons,” among those being entertainment, shock value, and slander.
Causes: Need to feel superior; insecurity.
False Rationalizations: This is how women bond; I’m just “keeping it real;” It’s the truth.
The Truth: Gossip is harmful to both the gossiper and the person who receives the gossip. The gossiper suffers because her Christian character is diminished, putting her testimony and ministry in jeopardy. The person who hears the gossip suffers because she has to try not to let the gossip influence her love toward the person being discussed. Make no mistake: gossip is sin, and Christ declared that we will be held accountable for the words we speak (Matt. 12:36).
The Self-Deprecating Tongue
What it is: Minimizing your worth and speaking against who and what God has called you. In a nutshell, it’s “putting yourself down.” Self-deprecation may be a tactic used to fit in with other complaining women. It can also be done in an effort to secure a compliment. For example: Saying, “I’m so fat,” in hopes that someone else will say, “Oh, no you’re not.”
False Rationalizations: I don’t want to brag; I just want to fit in.
The Truth: Self-deprecation is not humility. It is a rejection of the Word of God. God has called you strong (Phil. 4:13), powerful (2 Tim. 1:7), and wonderful (Ps. 139:14).
The Silent Tongue
What it is: Failure to speak the right words at the right time.
Causes: Fear; insecurity.
False rationalizations: Silence is always golden; better to be seen and not heard.
The Truth: Though the Bible acknowledges that silence gives the impression of wisdom (Prov. 17:28), our goal is not to stifle the words that God places on our hearts. As we continue to grow in Christ, we learn what it means to give godly counsel and speak the right words in the right season (Ps. 49:3).
The words we speak are simply an overflow of our hearts (Matt. 15:18). The secret to taming our tongues is to tame our thought life, a lifelong effort. Thankfully, we serve a faithful God who is constantly about the task of conforming us to the image of Christ as we submit to His will.
An occasional hour of gossip with the girls isn’t so bad – or is it? It can be so easy to pass on information we hear about someone without even caring if the tidbit is true or hurtful, can’t we? Should we listen only to gossip about people we don’t know or like? Or do we have to stop participating completely? Next time you’re tempted to gossip, think about Ephesians 4:29 which says, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building other up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”
So often as Christians we’re busier tearing one another down, than building one another up. James 3:9 says, “With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the God’s likeness.”
Next time you’re tempted to gossip, think about the following:
- A gossip may be fun to listen to, but she can’t be trusted enough to build intimate relationships with.
- No matter how jolly a person seems, gossip and criticism reveal on the outside what’s going on I the inside – negative thinking and hatred.
- Gossip and criticism are used to make us feel better about our positions in life – we feel good when someone else is worse off.
- Criticism of other people will eventually spill over into my own family. The more I see wrong in people with whom I work or mingle, the more critical my eyes become at home.
- Gossip and criticism pull down your spirit. Listening to gossip can be as harmful as speaking it. It changes the way you look at and feel about people.