Is there a person in your life who immediately causes your body to tense up whenever you hear their name? Maybe they hurt you, or you are jealous of them, or you just think they’re really annoying, but whatever the reason you don’t like hearing about them. Especially when it’s good.
I have this particular reaction to a few people in my life who have hurt me in the past. As soon as their names are mentioned, my heart rate speeds up and I can feel my spirit grow angry. My mind starts racing with all the things they’ve done to wrong me and all the reasons I don’t like them. I consider all the searing accusations I could level at them.
And as much as I would like to say that my reaction to these people is always Christ-like, I cannot. Because these people have wronged me, I feel justified in slandering them. The words tumble out of my mouth, almost uncontrollably, in what can only be described as verbal diarrhea. At times, I can even hear myself doing this, which leads me to subconsciously scream, “Stop talking!”
But I don’t.
Instead, I rationalize my actions. I’m merely relaying the facts of what they did, and reflecting my feelings on the matter. As far as I’m concerned, I’m the victim.
But the moment I open my mouth and tarnish another person’s reputation is the moment I make that person a victim as well. Someone may victimize me, but I am still accountable for how I respond, and on this point Scripture is clear–we are to do as Christ has done.
We are to forgive seventy times seven, we are to love unfailingly, and we are to treat others with kindness. This doesn’t mean being their best friend, but it certainly means responding to them with the respect that their divine image warrants.
Not because they deserve it, but because Christ has done much more for you and me.
And here’s another perspective to consider when you find yourself slandering another–you are doing a great deal of damage to yourself as well. By this, I mean that you are enslaving yourself to feelings of jealousy, bitterness, and hard-heartedness. When I talk about someone in a negative way, it only sews deeper seeds of bitterness that slowly poison my own heart. I don’t know about you, but I don’t like feeling that way. And I always regret it later.
But when we choose not to slander another person, we choose to set ourselves free from those feelings. We also set ourselves free from wondering what other people think about us. Whenever I gossip, I later suspect that I’ve said more about myself than the person I described. In the eyes of my listener, I’m just a bitter girl who doesn’t have the courage or integrity to approach the person myself.
Our words can truly be our bondage, which is why Scripture comes down so hard about it…
– Death and life are in the power of the tongue (Prov. 18:21)
– The getting of treasures by a lying tongue is a fleeting vapor and a snare of death. (Prov. 21:6)
– A lying tongue hates its victims (26:28)
– If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless. (James 1:26)
– So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things.How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell. (James 3:5-6)
These verses come to mind whenever I find myself talking endlessly about people who have hurt me. I could have ended the wrongs by never responding in kind, but instead I prolong the cycle, allowing my tongue to “set the forest ablaze” by spreading gossip and slander among people who are not even involved. Not only is my heart poison, but now I’m poisoning others.
That is the danger of the tongue. It is a powerful force for wrong if we let it, so keep this in mind the next time you find yourself bad-mouthing another, and justifying your words as a victim. Christ has called us to far better things.
And if you ever happen to be in my company when I start talking this way, let me first apologize for being such a jerk, but let me also give you free reign to scream something along the lines of “somebody put a cork in her!” It won’t hurt my feelings, and I was probably already thinking it myself.