Emails: Truth or Gossip?
By Phawnda Moore
There was a time in a bygone era where children sat in a circle and whispered “something” into the ear of their young neighbor. It was repeated, over and over, until it reached the last person. Then, that person told everyone what he’d heard. When we compared it to the original sentence, we were shocked at what “it” had become. Changed. Distorted. False.
The adult leader then told us how evil gossip could be. For if we, in a circle of friends, could interpret words differently, that proved we were vulnerable to believing and repeating things that weren’t true, even innocently. If the sentence had gained a little controversy, as it usually did, we were spreading gossip. After a united gasp, there was a pause and we became silent, convicted of our own childish frailty.
Fast forward several decades.
Emails: a social thing. Forwards: in print, just about anything looks “true.” It gives us something to say, to share. It’s a pastime, kind of like being “in” with a circle of friends. And don’t we have more trust when it comes from someone we know?
With a click of the mouse, we hear from friends from church or work, neighbors, family and uncover titillating news about prominent political personalities, heart-wrenching dramas about children with terminal illnesses, protesting groups of citizens who are outraged, or heartless big business, fearful tales about cell phone dangers, and accountings of evil strangers who loiter at banks, near your home, or on the dark highways.
Sometimes these messages snowball into an indignant conclusion (“we must stop this”) followed by pages of signatures. I got caught up in one recently claiming that Social Security was going to illegal residents, only to discover that it was three years old and cited a law that, when checked, was the exact opposite of the email content. I saw 1,000 signatures and thought, I must be slipping, how did I miss this on the news? My Christian friend’s name was there; she must have seen it. No, I learned, she didn’t. No one did. Someone said it and wrote it and passed it on . . . in their circle of friends.
Are we silently forwarding emails without being responsible to truth?
And if so,why?
Many of these emails are the result of overactive imaginations and false superiority. They have given Snopes.com (the researchers of wild email tales) a full-time job, checking out the facts. Good for them. News we can use before we forward.
When we get these emails, we must ask ourselves, “Is it true? Or is it gossip?”
Gossip destroys - dreams, reputations, hopes, souls, businesses, lives, and earthly peace.
God hates gossip. It’s on His list of the six things the Lord hates: “A lying tongue... a false witness who pours out lies, and a man who stirs up dissension among brothers” (Prov. 6:17-19).
Gossip is against His plan for truth. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. . .” (Jn. 14:6, KJV).
I was reminded of this when I heard a song recently. Jim Cowan wrote When It’s All Been Said and Done, “Did I do my best to live for truth? Did I live my life for You?” And I thought of the human tendency to forward something hot, provocative, and attention-getting in emails.
I also recalled growing up in a family filled with gossip. Then, we were admonished to “keep it at home” - family secrets, our little circle, as if that excused it. I don’t think that came from Jesus. I think He would say, “I have called you to speak the truth - everywhere, all the time, aim for it, for Me.”
Philippians 4:8 says the first criteria for godly communication is that it be true. We need to be accountable for our role in truth. “Test everything. Hold on to the good” (1 Thess. 5:21).
Let us speak and send words and thoughts to build up, to edify. In Phil. 4: 8, Paul says that we should speak words of virtue, words of excellence and value, words that produce good fruits, that build up the speaker, listener and everyone else. These are the words that renew our minds, linger in our hearts, heal, give hope, and motivate us to good works.
Look for the best in other people and encourage them. Offer kindness and comfort to people when they are discouraged or crushed. In short, let your intent and words bring life and hope - not destruction. Especially in what you forward.
And, by the way, let’s add Jesus to our address books, and forward only truth and praise.