Telling Tales

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Telling Tales

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Some time ago, there was a television commercial that showed a man working in an office. Suddenly he is hit in the back with a cactus thrown by a co-worker. He begins to stand, outraged at what has happened to him, but then he notices who the co-worker is and immediately laughs it off.  Obviously, this person could get away with anything because they were such a nice person…right?

It got me thinking about the different relationships we have in our lives. Some people are genuinely kind and it is easy to pardon them because you know they would never intentionally hurt anyone.  Others use their ‘nice’ skills to hurt people intentionally and then talk their way out of it. Proverbs 14:5 says,“A faithful witness will not lie: but a false witness will utter lies”(KJV throughout).Unfortunately, sometimes it's difficult to know the difference.

However, there is another group of people that fall somewhere in-between. These people don't really want to hurt others or say bad things and are generally nice people, but can't seem to stop themselves.  They get away with it because of how they use their words and actions.

It's no big deal?

People in this group tend to preface their revelations with a lot of facial grimaces as if it pains them to say what they’re about to say, or they preface what they say with something like, “Well, I shouldn't say anything, but....” or “I really love this person, however...”

By beginning their story in this way it appears as if they are sharing something important and meaningful, only to be shared with you.  The intent is that in so doing they avoid blame for doing what they know to be wrong and they get off the hook with those listening to the story.

Unfortunately, what usually follows is not of any benefit to you or to the person being spoken of. It is generally just an ugly opinion or a judgment they have passed on that person.  It is nothing but gossip. There is an old idiom about “Telling tales out of school”, which meant telling secrets or spreading rumors. Common synonyms of that are: to blab, gossip, squeal, or talk out of turn.  Another synonym at is quite expressive and makes a good point. It is to “cut to pieces.” When we talk this way about others, it changes the way others view them and maybe even how they treat them.

Maybe you see yourself doing this at times. Most people have done it at one time or another and we may still occasionally find ourselves in that position, intentionally or not. Often it begins with seeming innocence.  It is a way of expressing agreement with the other person or group. It is a trap we can easily trip into at one time or another. None of us is perfect. We are however told to strive for perfection. We are to emulate our elder brother, Jesus the Christ. (Galatians 3:26-27)

Is it ever helpful?

On occasion, what we say to others can be helpful. For instance, one might explain someone else's turmoil or challenge and ask others to pray for them or serve them in some way. Even in this situation, however, it is not usually necessary to pass along every detail.

Perhaps it would be alright to get involved when you fear for one’s spiritual safety and need to bring someone else into confidence in order to work to save this person from being lost. Again, it is wise to be circumspect about what information we share. It is also wise to check with your pastor in this case. He may have already dealt with the person and have a clearer understanding of what is going on.

Another example of bringing others into a matter is when there is a challenge or an issue, as there was with Ruth. Boaz brought together ten elders to confront his kinsman about Naomi's land and the hand of Ruth. (Ruth 4:1-6)

A final reason would be when one has a conflict with someone and, after going to them, it is still unresolved.  At that point, others could be brought in as witnesses to what is happening. Not only for moral support, but to establish the truth of the matter. (Matthew 18: 15-16)

Don't get caught up

As mentioned, you and I are not immune to such actions. Often, we get caught up in what others have already started and fall right in with it. The problem is when we are the one starting these types of conversations.   It can become habitual. We need to rethink our actions if we notice this kind of behavior.

We can get swept away with the immediate satisfaction from others’ responses to what we say. Maybe they are shocked, saddened or even outraged. We can be left mistakenly feeling we have done the right thing.  Then they may get excited by what we are saying and jump in with their own feedback on the subject. Human nature feeds on this sort of thing and, frankly, Satan loves it when we tear each other down.  Proverbs 18:8 states,“The words of a talebearer are as wounds, and they go down into the innermost parts of the belly.”

It begins early in our lives. As children we often choose sides and begin to disregard those not with us. Children may badmouth, tease, and exclude another child. As parents, we teach our children to share, forgive, love others, and not to exclude others from being our friends.  At least that is what all parents should do. Our Father in Heaven is also trying to teach us not to cause division.  We are to care for each other as a part of our very bodies. We, the church, are the Body.  (1 Corinthians 12:14, 27)

When we tell tales on another, we never truly know what the outcome may be. Offenses can come easy and be difficult to mend.  Proverbs 18:19-21 says,“A brother offended is harder to be won than a strong city: and their contentions are like the bars of a castle. A man’s belly shall be satisfied with the fruit of his mouth; and with the increase of his lips shall he be filled.Death and life are in the power of the tongue: and they that love it shall eat the fruit thereof.”

What we can do?

Paul said that he found himself doing that of which he did not approve. Sin still dwelled in him. (Romans 7:15-20) Does this mean that he just gave up? No. He knew that God and Jesus Christ were with him and that through the Holy Spirit he could gain strength and ultimately overcome. Though that doesn’t come easy, we must always work at it.

We might realize that what we are about to say is not worthy of repeating, but we go forward anyway. When we get to this point we have the opportunity to stop, think, and step back. We must simply not say it! We must break the cycle. Each time we do this, it becomes easier to stop ourselves the next time. We will have grown spiritually.

Sometimes we speak without thinking and later regret our words. At that point, we should not just leave it alone. We should express our regret for what we have done. Not only will we be correcting ourselves, we will also be showing others our disapproval of our own behavior. Why is that important? Because when we get into a habit of speaking about others, those around us begin to find us untrustworthy. They wonder if we are talking about them behind their backs as well.

The best way to stop others who begin to tell tales, is to first stop ourselves.  If a friend is doing this, help them to stop.  A simple, “I am not interested in talking about that person,” or a quick change of subject can often stop gossip in its tracks. They will have noticed your example and realize they are on the same track.

A good verse to remember is: Matthew 15:11, “Not what which goeth into the mouth defileth a man; but that which cometh out of the mouth, this defileth a man.”

Remember Matthew 7:12,“Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them…” The words that come from our mouths should be edifying and truthful. They should build up and not tear down and should always be said with love and concern.

For more information on living right, read the online Bible study aid Making Life Work.