All would agree that as Christians we should be open, honest, fair and reasonable. After all, God has given us the standard of "Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good…” in Ephesians 4:29 Yet it seems difficult to escape unhealthy, dishonest or even destructive communication. This message examines two unhealthy modes of communication and how to avoid them by effectively rising to the biblical standard.
[Steve Myers] I've been thinking about the words that we use. God gives us a challenge. In a way, I suppose, He throws down the gauntlet – specifically to the Ephesians – but it certainly applies to all of us today, especially as a part of the Church. As God's called people, He gives us a challenge. This particular challenge is found in Ephesians 4, verse 29. It's something I think we all would agree with. No one would say, well, I'm not quite sure about that idea. And yet, as we are challenged, it is a difficult prospect. Maybe even more difficult than getting up and trying to sing special music! This particular section of scripture – Paul writes to God's church in Ephesus, and He's writing to us as well – as He tells us in verse 29. Ephesians 4 – God inspired the apostle Paul to write:
Ephesians 4:29 Ephesians 4:29Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace to the hearers.
American King James Version×– Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth.
That's a challenge, isn't it? That is a huge challenge. It doesn't say, well, it might be a nice idea if you communicated in a positive way – it doesn't say that. But, if you were to read this in other translations, some say, don't let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouth. Some even turn it around just a little bit and say, let everything you say be good and be helpful. Not just a little bit or most of what I say is helpful and good – no, it says, let no corrupt word. Let everything you say – don't let anything that's unhealthy or unwholesome, come out of you. And I think we would all agree with that. That is a wonderful standard. That is our standard. We know we should communicate in a godly way; that is best. We should be honest, we should be open, we should be forthright, we should be reasonable at all times. So not much argument there. OK, the sermon's over with, let's be done! But actually doing this, this is where it is so difficult. Because, as you step back and think about it, why is it sometimes, that even at church, it can be a place of unhealthy, maybe even dishonest – can we say dishonest – or maybe destructive communication? Is that true? I think at times, all of us can get into unhealthy modes of communicating; unhealthy ways of relating to others. Sometimes we call it fellowship, but sometimes it's not fellowship – not godly fellowship. And I think that's the challenge that God gives to us, is not to let any corrupt words come out of our mouths.
Paul was not only inspired to write to the Ephesians in this way; to a young minister he wrote a very similar thought, and that was Timothy. He wrote to Timothy in I Timothy chapter 6 verse 20. And as he's instructing Timothy, he tells him – and maybe he had this letter to the Ephesians in mind when he was writing to Timothy – because he told him something similar here in I Timothy chapter 6 verse 20. He said:
I Timothy 6:20 – ...O...Timothy! Guard what has been entrusted to your care. (NIV)
And of course, as a minister, you would think, well, that's got to be true doctrine, that's got to be faithful living, that's got to be those types of things. But it is interesting what he follows that up with. When he says guard, there's a responsibility to guard what's entrusted to you. What he goes to next is, he says:
I Timothy 6:20 – ...Turn away from godless chatter.
That's the way the NIV puts it. Godless chatter, or vain babblings – the New King James talks about – vain babblings. In other words, things that are, well, corrupt. Things that are unwholesome, things that are not helpful. Empty discussions, or useless discussions – matters that don't really mean much. He says that's what you've got to turn away from. Turn away from that, and turn to what is good.
So, we've been given the standard. That's the standard. The standard is the standard that, well, camp was all about this year. In living more like our Heavenly Father, following the example of Jesus Christ, and ways to accomplish that, we're told, is to get rid of the things that tear us down, the things that corrupt. And I think there's two critical things that we can often become a part of – we can often fall into that are unhealthy – things that are corrupt, things that are unwholesome, that don't lead to godliness. And, yeah, they happen right here in church.
First, there's something called triangulation that we can become a part of. Triangulation – it sounds like strangulation, but it's not. But, triangulation; and if you think, what is that? It's kind of like the word implies, a triangle. A triangle – it's got three sides. We all know what a triangle looks like. When it comes to communicating, triangulation means something that should be a two-party discussion, becomes a three-party discussion. Where there should be two people dialoguing and dealing with an issue, a third party is brought in. Well, I'm not able to talk to them about this problem, so I'm going to talk to somebody else about it. And so I can maybe think I help with the situation, maybe alleviate a little bit of the tension, get something off my mind. Well, maybe I actually complain or I whine or I vent to this third person, because, you know, they'll probably understand. They'll understand me. And of course, probably part of the goal is, I'd like them to understand me, because you know, this other person that I have the problem with, they are the problem, it's not me! And so, when we don't resolve things between the person we have a disagreement with – the person we may have an issue with – sometimes we bring in another person. And that's called triangulation.
Why do we have that inclination to share something that should be with one other person? Why do we complain to somebody else about it? Do we really think that's going to help? Well, why do we do that? I want them to agree with me. I want support. And if I can tell you about my problem with them, you'll probably agree with me, especially the way I tell the story, right? You're going to agree with me. Of course you're going to see that they are the problem, they're the issue. And see, instead of going to the person that I have the issue with, or the person that I might just have a misunderstanding with, or I just have a difference of opinion with – instead of going to them and discussing it – I'm going to talk to you, because you're a nice person, and you'll see it from my perspective. That ever happen? Well, if my wife and I have a disagreement – which never of course, happens! After all these years of marriage, never happens, right? So I have a disagreement with my wife; I can't talk to her about it. I mean, she's the problem! So I'm going to talk to my best friend, and of course, my best friend – he's going to agree with me.
And, by bringing him into the conversation – not with her, with him – we're having a conversation about the problem with my wife; I've triangulated the issue. I've brought this third party – now this conflict isn't just an issue between my wife and I – I brought him into the situation. And of course, he's going to agree with me, leaving somebody out. Who's the odd man out in a situation like that? Well, it's my wife, because my best friend and I – we agree totally. And so, obviously, she would be the odd man out. Or, how about that Howard. Howard decides, I'm going deer hunting. His wife isn't too happy about that. She was sure he was going to take her to the mall and go shopping – for shoes. Instead of going to Howard and saying, listen, we had plans. What do you mean, you're going deer hunting? She calls up her girlfriends and says, you know, that Howard – my husband – he decided to forget the plans we had and now he's gone deer hunting. Well, what is her friend supposed to say? Yeah, you're right, that Howard, he is a jerk. I can't believe that he did that. I can fully understand why you would be so irritated with him. Why would he do that? And so, the issue was triangulated, and Howard is on the outs.
How easily that can happen. Can you think of any Biblical examples that maybe come to mind when it comes to triangulation? You don't have to go very far. You can go right to the very beginning. If you go to Genesis chapter 3, we have an example of triangulation right from the very start. Now, it's not between Howard and his wife, but it is an interesting situation how triangulation can fall right into some people's hands – o get somebody to agree with you – by leaving out the other party. And right from the very beginning in Genesis chapter 3, we are back in the garden. God and Eve had a relationship. God was the Creator; He created Adam and Eve. He told them how to live, He told them what was best. He taught them the best way to live – the best choices to make – but there was an issue. We have a little triangulation going on. Look at the beginning of chapter 3, it says:
Genesis 3:1 Genesis 3:1Now the serpent was more subtle than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said to the woman, Yes, has God said, You shall not eat of every tree of the garden?
American King James Version×– ...the serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And He said to the woman...God is a great Guy, isn't He? Oh, wait, it doesn't say that. He says...Has God indeed said, You shall not eat of every tree of the garden?
You know, what's the deal with God telling you you shouldn't eat of that one tree? 'Cause, Eve said, well no, we're not really supposed to. We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden, but the fruit of the tree which is in the middle of the garden, God said we should not eat it, nor shall we touch it, lest you die. And so, we have a classic triangulation between Eve and God, by Satan the devil. And Satan says, ah come on, God isn't treating you fairly – are you sure? You're not going to really die. And so, who becomes the odd man out here? Well, God becomes the odd man out. He says to her in verse 5:
Genesis 3:5 Genesis 3:5For God does know that in the day you eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and you shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.
American King James Version×– ...God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.
And so, sure enough, we begin to see that wedge that's put between Eve and God. Now of course, Eve should have went right to the party. Eve should have went right to God and said, God, I, you know, this guy's telling me one thing – can You help me out here? But she buys into the story. And, it doesn't really deal with the issue; and that's the problem with the triangle. That's the problem in our life when we don't address the real issue. When we don't really try to solve the real problem or the tension or the issue. It becomes a problem in relationships, doesn't it? It sure became a problem with the relationship between God and Eve. It was already a problem with Satan and God, for sure – no doubt about that.
But when you bring a third person into it, can it help but affect that person's relationship with the one that you have the issue with? You know, what's my best friend going to think of my wife? – going to think better of her because I just explained all the problems that I have with her to him? That's not going to help. And that becomes a major problem, especially when we have a need to express those things to someone that really may not be able to help at all; and unfortunately, it not only happens in the church, it happens in our families. It happens within our families. What if a father complains to his son about – you know your Mom, you've probably seen it – you know, she's got a problem with her temper. Your Mom has a problem with her temper and, you know, she's just not that good a person sometimes. What is that going to do – you've got this triangulation – now we've brought the son into this. What's Johnnie supposed to do? Yeah Dad, I've seen it. I've seen Mom's temper. You're right, she does have a problem. Well, does that help build a relationship between Johnnie and Mom? Of course not. Now we've built a wall – Mom and son – that relationship can't help but be affected for the worse. I mean, if a Mom were to confide in her child about a problem with her marriage, is that somehow going to help the situation? If Dad takes sides against Mom because we're disciplining the children, and defends the child, is that going to help with their relationship? And we have this tendency to triangulate, and it never solves the real problem.
And it can happen in the church as well, can't it? I don't know what's going on here, but it seems like we're getting pretty lax. I don't know how they could allow that to go on. It seems to me that something ought to be done. And you go and you share that with someone else? Well, of course, that sure sounds like something ought to be done. What I see is a problem. But is that addressing the real issue? It doesn't at all. You've just agreed with somebody that there's a problem that you don't even know if there really is a problem about. Are you kidding? How about going to the source that could actually answer that question before it becomes a triangulation? You see, that becomes a major issue. It sure looks that way. Well, you know, looks can be deceiving. It may not be that way at all.
It sure wasn't the way that Satan painted it was it? But, boy, he painted a picture for Eve and she bought into the whole thing, hook, line and sinker. And it can happen, and sometimes we can use other people for our weapons, right? We can use some other people. Yeah, I don't know what Mr. Myers was thinking, having another social – can you believe this? Yeah, I was talking to Mr. Metzel, and he agrees with me. He thinks that there's just not, there's just too many of these things going on. Now I'm not saying that happened, of course, it didn't. Of course, Mr. Metzel would always agree with me! No, but the point is, well, the president thinks this, and suddenly, because they're on my side, it bolsters my argument, and we then, not necessarily use the minister or the president, but we use somebody else as our clout to get people on our side, to win the argument. To show that somehow we're better, or we're thinking appropriately, rather than really dealing with the issue and the people that might be involved.
I mean, there's a classic example back in 2 Samuel. In 2 Samuel chapter 15 – probably one of the best examples in the Bible when it comes to triangulation. And, it involves the king's son. David is king – king over all of Israel. He had a lot of problems, no doubt. One of the problems he had was with his family. And, as it comes down to this section of II Samuel, the problem is with his son, Absalom. Absalom, of course, is a talented young man, you know, he is the Arnold Schwarzenegger of the day. He's the – I can't think of the latest guy – but you know, you saw his picture at the grocery store on that magazine, whatever his name is, right? I don't know, somebody help me out here. These old people aren't going to help me out! The problem is Absalom, and the way he handles this problem; because you know, he's next in line. He should be king. You know, I'm the one who should be taking charge, and he obviously feels that way. But look at how he manipulates the situation, as he gets back to Jerusalem. In 2 Samuel chapter 15 – the way he handles the situation – verse 1 it says:
2 Samuel 15:1 2 Samuel 15:1And it came to pass after this, that Absalom prepared him chariots and horses, and fifty men to run before him.
American King James Version×– After this it happened that Absalom provided himself with chariots and horses, and fifty men to run before him...hey, I'm looking like a king. Look at this crowd, look at my entourage that I have with me, I should be king...Vs. 2 – Now Absalom would rise early and stand beside the way to the gate. So it was, whenever anyone who had a lawsuit came to the king for a decision, that Absalom would call to him and say, What city are you from? And he would say, Your servant is from such and such a tribe of Israel...Well, what would Absalom do once he heard where they were from? Vs. 3 – ...Absalom would say, Look, your case is good...you've got a good cause going for you – and of course, standing at the gate, first one to get to see – what would he say to them? You know, you've got a great case, it's too bad you're going to have to stand at the end of the line. You know, it's too bad there isn't anybody here to really expedite your case; anybody that would really stand with you that, you know, could get you an audience, maybe a little quicker before the king. I mean, you could imagine the story that would have been behind the story. Verse 4 says:
2 Samuel 15:4 2 Samuel 15:4Absalom said moreover, Oh that I were made judge in the land, that every man which has any suit or cause might come to me, and I would do him justice!
American King James Version×– Moreover Absalom would say, Oh, that I were made judge in the land, and everyone who has any suit or cause would come to me; then I would give him justice.
You see, David's the problem isn't he? The king is the problem. So here Absalom has forced himself into the situation, formed a triangle, and who's the odd man out? It's the king. Boy, he could only judge some things, but you know, he's got a lot on his mind, he can't do it, but if I were the judge, you would get a fair hearing. And, you've got a great case. So, what's the results then? How does David look? He looks like the one at fault. He looks like the evil one. And so, we have this triangulation that goes on. And of course, he continued to do that, so in verse 5 it says:
2 Samuel 15:5 2 Samuel 15:5And it was so, that when any man came near to him to do him obeisance, he put forth his hand, and took him, and kissed him.
American King James Version×– And so it was, whenever anyone came near to bow down to him, that he would put out his hand and take him and kiss him. Vs. 6 – In this manner Absalom acted toward all Israel who came to the king for judgment...So he inserted himself into the situation and, ultimately, the king was odd man out. So it says at the end of verse 6 – ...Absalom stole the hearts of men of Israel.
Because of deceit – because he forced himself in – because he got other people to agree with him. Because he made David look like the bad guy. And it was his own father. – it was his own father. And so, we see the emptiness in all of this, I mean, you read the whole rest of the story – all it did is lead to destruction for Absalom – even for David – the problems that were all involved in this horrible situation.
And the reason I focus in on that – I think we can understand probably from all of those perspectives – you know, have you ever been the person that was kind of the brunt of that triangulation? You probably have been. We've probably done it ourselves. And maybe we were the one they had the problem with. We've probably been at all points of that triangle, and can understand really, the deceitfulness in all of it. God says this is corrupt communication. He tells us, this is the kind of thing we have to root out of our behavior; it's not acceptable.
And so, if we're going to get rid of this, how do we begin to deal with it; how can I get rid of this kind of communicating in my life? Well, I think the first thing, we've got to recognize it, don't we? We've got to see it for what it is. And, it's not really that hard to recognize whether or not I'm doing it. You know, if I were to bring somebody else into the situation – we could ask ourselves a couple of questions, I think, to determine if this is something that's – I'm trying to be helpful, or I'm actually triangulating an issue? We could ask ourselves, would I say the same things to the person I have the problem with that I'm going to tell this person? Would I tell them, would I say the same things if I were talking to them directly, or would I modify the things I'm about to say? Would I really be that open? Would I be direct? Do I tell the same story to both people? Do I tell the same truth – if you want to put it that way – do I tell the same truth to both parties? I mean, that would definitely give us an idea of our definition of openness; our intent to really solve the problem.
How about just getting pulled into a situation like that? If I feel like I'm getting pulled in, they're triangulating me, they're telling me their story. I didn't ask to have them tell me this – here it is – they just poured it out. Now what do I do? I don't want to be brought into this, but there I am – what can I do? James gives us some instruction when it comes to not only recognizing the problem, but if I'm being pulled into a situation that I really don't want to be a part of this – really shouldn't be a part of – what can I do? If I recognize, all right, I'm being used in somebody's favor – wait a second – what can I do? I think James does discuss this. If you look at James chapter 5, verse 19. James 5:19 James 5:19Brothers, if any of you do err from the truth, and one convert him;
American King James Version× talks about some difficult Christianity here; some challenges for each and every one of us, I think. James addresses the issue, and I think we'll see how it ties in here. In verse 19 it says:
James 5:19 James 5:19Brothers, if any of you do err from the truth, and one convert him;
American King James Version×– Brethren, if anyone among you wanders from the truth...and I think, is it fair to say that if I act like that – if I bring other people into a situation that shouldn't be involved in that situation, and I don't deal with an issue with someone else, but I'm trying to get other people on my side – is that wandering from the truth? I think we could probably agree that it probably is. So, if someone's wandering from the truth, it says...and someone turns him back...it says. Vs. 20 – let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save a soul from death and cover a multitude of sins.
What, do we want all that out in the open, or is it better left unsaid? Is it better to help someone deal with an issue rather than be a cohort? Rather than be an accomplice? Rather than being brought into a situation? Now, this is tough! This is really hard to do. I mean, we've got to be at the top of our spiritual game when these situations are confronting us, because I think it's easy to sympathize with people, isn't it? I mean, obviously, my wife's got problems. Anybody would agree with me – wouldn't they sympathize with the problem that I have – you know, it's her fault; well, yeah, I've seen that. It's easy to sympathize, but that doesn't necessarily help, especially when we're putting a wedge between solving the real issue. We're really putting a wedge between people taking responsibility for their actions. And God said that's not acceptable. You know, if I know I'm upset and I don't know what to do about it, I've got to go to the right person in order to sort it out. I can't bring others into it.
And so, can we help people take responsibility for the issue? If someone just pours it out on us – it's like well, wait a second – how are we going to react? Are we going to say, yeah, you're right, that Herman, he is a jerk. Well, no, that's not right. Can we send them in the right direction? Can we say, well, have you talked to them? Have you worked out the real situation? Can we do that without involving a third party? Yeah, I think we can. There's some pretty straightforward examples in the Bible of that. There's one in the book of Galatians, and actually, it's between two bigwigs. It's between two apostles. Talk about an issue at the top echelons of the church, here it is – Galatians 2:11 Galatians 2:11But when Peter was come to Antioch, I withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed.
American King James Version×. There was this issue between Peter and Paul. Peter would do some things in public; he would do other things in private. Paul, the apostle, became aware of it. And so, what did Paul do? Well, I should go talk to James about this, because boy, that Peter, he's not acting/I'm going to tell James all about it; in fact, maybe I'll tell John about it. I'll tell John what Peter's doing, and that will take care of Peter. Everybody will be on my side, and obviously, they'll agree with me how foolish Peter is being, right? I can get these other apostles to agree with me and that will show him. That will show him how foolish he's being. No, he didn't do that. He didn't triangulate the issue. Galatians chapter 2:11, when it came to acting one way in public and another way in private, and the opportunity came, Paul addressed it directly. He didn't go to any third parties. It says here in verse 11:
Galatians 2:11 Galatians 2:11But when Peter was come to Antioch, I withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed.
American King James Version×– When Peter came to Antioch... I opposed, or... I withstood him to his face, because he was clearly in the wrong. (NIV)
That doesn't mean he took a 2-by-4 and beat him over the head with it and said, what's wrong with you, you wacko. Yeah, that's not/when he says he withstood him, he resisted this behavior – that this was unacceptable – and he went right to the source. He didn't go to James or John, or any of the other apostles. He didn't take it to the deacons or the other elder; he went right to the issue itself. He didn't triangulate somebody else in as a third person just to agree with him. He went to the source of the problem.
And when we're brought into a situation, can we do that? Can we say, you need to go and talk to them. You need to go and work that out with them. We don't have to just sympathize, that's not going to really help the issue. We don't have to avoid it – you know, is that too harsh a thing to say, hey, you need to work that out? I don't think so. I think it's the Christian thing to do. We can't avoid the differences, cause there's going to be differences. There's going to be disagreements, there's going to be issues, but do we really take the bull by the horns and go to the right person, rather than just bringing others into it, or being brought into it ourselves? Obviously, we can't do that. If we're going to strive for the level of the standard that we're told – we should be letting no corrupt communication – when we're rising to that level. Well, we need to root that out.
And I think it also brings in another aspect of this that, I think it's related – a little bit different, but it is related. And as I think about how we communicate, it did remind me of this story I heard about three preachers that went out fishing. They went out fishing, and one of them decided he was going to share some of his shortcomings with the others. He said, well, you know guys, I've got to admit, sometimes I've got a little bit of a problem with alcohol. You know, sometimes I have a tendency just to drink a little bit too much. One of the other fellows kind of caught on – he said, you know, I've got problems too. He said, you know, I have a difficult time – sometimes I just can't keep my eyes to myself, and they wander, and it's not good. You know, I definitely have a problem with that sometimes. Well, the third guy caught on pretty quick, and they both looked at him and they said, well, you know, what's your issue? And he said, you know, I've got a problem with gossip, and I can't wait to get back to shore!
Gossip is a problem, I think, that is related to this issue of triangulation. I don't think there's anything in it that we'd say, yeah that's a good thing, we ought to be doing that. I know we've heard stories and messages and sermonettes and sermons about it, and I think we would all agree – it's a bad thing. It destroys reputations, it ruins relationships, it divides families, it divides people. It comes between people, it builds wedges and walls, and gossip is one of those things. It is a destructive habit that we can find ourselves in, and something that we do have to root out. I mean, there's such an amazing lesson that James draws throughout much of the book of James. We're probably very familiar with it. I think one of the most stark things that James says (you can just write down James 1:26 James 1:26If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridles not his tongue, but deceives his own heart, this man's religion is vain.
American King James Version×) in that section it says, if you think you're religious and you don't control the things that you say, you don't bridle your tongue – it's a scary thing, he says. He says, your religion is vain. Your religion is useless, if you don't do that. And so it is a serious thing. What is beneficial about something that is so hurtful for those that become involved, or those that are even talked about – sharing information that we shouldn't share – it can be hurtful. And sometimes, it's not hurtful.
Gossip doesn't have to be lies. Gossip could be the truth; yeah, that it really is that way. That I really did get in an argument with my wife, and they're telling the truth, but is that helpful? Is that helpful? In Hebrew, sometimes it's called, lorshon hora, which means literally, an evil tongue. An evil tongue. And it's interesting that when the Jews apply that, they apply it not to just to the one that's doing the talking, but they also apply it to the one that's doing the listening as well; that it involves both parties. The evil tongue – listening to it as well as talking about it. In fact, we sing a section of scripture in the Psalms that deals with this. You know the song – Turn Thou from Evil – we sing it a lot. That's from Psalm 34. If you want to turn over to Psalm 34. It's interesting what other aspects of turning from evil implies. And in Psalm 34, it reminds us of this, because we find that section of the song that we sing in verse 14 of Psalm 34. Verse 14: It says:
Psalms 34:14 Psalms 34:14Depart from evil, and do good; seek peace, and pursue it.
American King James Version×– Depart from evil and do good...yeah, that's it, turn thou from evil, do what is good, right?...Seek peace and pursue it...well, earnestly is not there in my Bible, but that's the intent there, right? Seek peace, pursue it earnestly. That's what we're to do. Vs. 15 – The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous...but right before that, look at verse 13. Verse 13 says – Keep your tongue from evil. And your lips from speaking deceit.
You see, if we're to turn from evil, we've got to do good. It's not gossiping, it's not triangulation. We've got to do what's right. Does it help to share information with people that/what does that do when we do that? So we share some juicy tidbits with somebody. Does that help them to trust us more? Or would they say, huh, I wonder what they say about me when I'm not around? What are they thinking? It is such a dreadful thing when we begin to allow ourselves to get into those situations. And God says so much about it – you could do a study on it – you know the passages. So many of the proverbs deal with how we talk. You know, don't allow a tale-bearer, never gossip. Those things come up over and over and over again. Even at the very beginning – it comes to mind – the beginning of the book to Romans/the letter to the Romans. Paul addresses all kinds of different things, and one of those things he talks about are whisperers; those that are gossips, those that are backbiters. He goes through a whole list of things, talking about the difficulty and really the treachery of what gossip brings.
So rather than just focus on – OK, it's a problem – I think we can agree it is; it's an issue. Now what do I do about it? Is there anything that I can do? Well, what do I do when someone gossips to me? I'm not the gossiper, but before I can say – whoa, wait a second – there it is, they just told me. What do we do? I think one thing we can take to heart is what's opposite of gossip. You know, opposite of gossip-it, right? If we want to do what's opposite of gossiping, we've got to repeat what's good – what's good. If only what is good comes out of us, then we're not going to be caught up in gossip. There's that section – I mentioned Romans, I think it's also in Romans – where it talks about let love be without hypocrisy. Remember that section of scripture? I think it says we're supposed to abhor what's evil, and not just abhorring what's evil, but it also says, cling to what's good. Cling to what's good.
So, do we cling to what's good instead of telling people – gossiping about them and others – do we repeat what's good and what's helpful? Maybe we can think about an example of that for a moment. Let's say we're at work, and Herman always talks bad about Mary – everything he says. So you're there at the water cooler one day and Herman says, you know, that Mary, she is the laziest woman I think I've ever seen. Alright, it's out before you even got a chance to say, I don't want to hear it. Now, what do you do? Yeah, you're right, she's… no, we can't do that. Not supposed to do that. Is it possible to even turn something like that around? Could you say something like, well, you've got to admit, she's pretty talented, wouldn't you say? Well, yeah I guess, you know, what's Herman going to say? I mean, if she is, if that's true, if that is good and that's right, he probably couldn't help but admit it. Ah, yeah, yeah, I still think she's pretty lazy, he might say. Yeah, but I guess you're right, she's kind of talented.
Alright, later you see Mary at the water cooler. You should have heard what Herman said about you. He thinks you are the laziest person. OK, I can't gossip. That's unacceptable. Can I cling to what is good? OK, what did Herman say? Well, I asked him if he thought she was talented, and he said, yeah. So can I say to Mary, I was talking to Herman and he mentioned he thought you were talented. Well, what's Mary going to say? Wow, never liked that guy. I always thought he was kind of a, you know, a terrible kind of a person. But, he thinks that? Yeah, I really think he's kind of slovenly, I don't think he's much of a help around here at all. Alright, now she's saying bad stuff about him! Now what do you do? Well, can we get them to start thinking? Is it possible to do something like that? Is it possible to say, well, you know, don't you think that Herman's a hard worker? Yeah, I guess he is. He seems to be always putting in extra time around here. I don't really like him, but he does seem to be a hard worker. Maybe something like that would be said by Mary.
Alright, you see Herman later. What are you going to tell him? Aaah, Mary still doesn't like you – you know, I can't say that. But, can I say, aaah, I was just talking to Herman and you know, he says he thinks you're a hard worker, or he thinks you're a hard worker. And, see what it does, is it sets up a positive thing, rather than emphasizing the negative. When Herman and Mary see each other the next time, is it automatically going to go negative? I don't think so. I mean, I think it may sound a little bit silly, but wouldn't it help the two of them put things in a different light – maybe see their relationship from a little bit different perspective? I think it can. I think it can make a difference. I mean, it might sound kind of hokey, but I don't think it is.
I think when we start to see the positive, and when we start to be the facilitator – the one who would see things on the right side, to see things from a more Godly perspective – when we emphasize those positive things, when we're the one that emphasizes peace between people, when we emphasize things that are good, when we emphasize those things that are helpful – what will the result be? It's got to be better. It's got to be better. Does that then help us, like the Proverbs say, cover a transgression? Cover a multitude of sins? I think it does. I think it does, and the Proverbs say a lot about that. You repeat a matter, you separate friends. You repeat gossip, you repeat the negative, boy, you're tearing apart relationships. If you do what's good, you cover that transgression, you seek love. That's what (Proverbs 17) talks about. You could read that later. It is an amazing thing.
And so, can we be a promoter of what's good and what's right? That's what Christ expects of us, doesn't He? Blessed are the peacemakers, right? The peacemakers are blessed. That's what one of the things He said in that whole section of the Beatitudes. That's what we should repeat. That's what we should focus on. And would that then, have an impact that others could begin to be more focused on what's good? So I think that's certainly what we can do. We can repeat only the good.
Now, there's other things I think we can do as well. I mean, if we are being gossiped to, I think we've got to – well, maybe that's it – maybe we've got to hold up our hand and distance ourselves from this, right? I've got to distance – how open am I to hearing those stories? How willing a listener am I? In Ecclesiastes, if you're still here – I guess we're in the Psalms – if we flip over to Ecclesiastes, past Proverbs, and Ecclesiastes, there's a section in chapter 7 verse 21, I think that gives us another way to deal with this situation. You know, if I'm the one that seems to always have people telling me this stuff – what am I, open to this? I've got to distance myself from this. And Ecclesiastes addresses this. In chapter 7, if you look at verse 21. The New King James says:
Ecclesiastes 7:21 Ecclesiastes 7:21Also take no heed to all words that are spoken; lest you hear your servant curse you:
American King James Version×– Also do not take to heart everything people say, Lest you hear your servant cursing you. Vs. 22 – For many times, also, your own heart has known That even you have cursed others.
In a way, what this is telling us is, don't listen. You shouldn't be listening to those. Don't take heart. In other words, I mean – if you looked it up in maybe some of the more modern translations – don't listen to everything people are telling you. Don't get brought into that. You know, he says, because you know what? Pretty soon they're going to be insulting you. You know, what are they saying about me? And that's basically what Ecclesiastes is getting there.
If we find that people are coming to us with the latest, greatest juiciest little nuggets that aren't really truth, it might be a good thing to ask ourselves, why are they coming to me? Why are they talking to me? You know, am I inviting that? Am I openly inviting people to share their rumors, their gossip, their talk? Maybe am I being a willing participant? See, we can't be. We can't be. I think there are things we can do to respond to that. If we find that we're being drawn into these things, and someone says, well, you know, that Mary, she's just – uh, you know how she is – she's just, what do we say? Do we ever say, wait, that doesn't sound like them? That's not the person I know them to be. Do we ever stop them in their tracks? I mean, is that un-Christian to do that? To say, whoa, wait a second, that's not how I perceive them? I don't see them that way. I, you know, I can't imagine them doing that. Can we stick up for that person? Can we be a peacemaker in that way? And maybe if it isn't that, can we say, well, wait, I'm not sure they'd want us to be talking about them in that way.
Is that too hard? It's hard to do it. It's really hard to do it. It's not an easy thing. And that means I've got to be on my toes and be ready for it. If it just is going to catch me off guard, and I haven't thought it through ahead of time? I mean, you know sometimes, oh, oh, here they come. I better be careful. Wait, I don't think it's good, you know, is this a good way to talk? Can we say that type of thing? You know, I don't know if they'd appreciate it if we were talking about it that way. Maybe you should go and talk to them, you know. I think if we can deal with those kinds of things directly, it helps alleviate the problem. I know I sure wouldn't want anybody talking about me that way. Even if we said that. Would you want somebody talking about you in that way? I mean, the response, what else could you – no, I don't want anybody talking that way about me! And so, we can begin to help solve the problem when we distance ourselves from it. And we stand up for other people. We stand up for them. We see the positive side of things.
And then, of course, the other part is if I'm the one that has that challenge; that I'm the one that's tempted to talk, I'm the one that's tempted – yeah, I might even convince myself, well, this is good information, this isn't bad. Wait a second, is it yours to give? Is it your information to share with someone? Well, I know Susy's planning a – this is totally a, no names attached to this; I haven't heard this, but I'm just using it as an example – Susy's giving a shower for Josie, and did you hear that it's going to be over here, and over there, and this is what's going to happen, and they're planning these? Wait a second, that's not bad information, but is it yours to give? You just stole a blessing from those who are planning it and organizing it, from announcing it! That's not right! That's not your information to share. You can't be doing that. You can't yield to that temptation. I know something that somebody else doesn't know, so I'm going to share with everyone – that is not your right! In fact, what we do, is we hurt others, even if the information might be good, or it might be happy news. Is it really yours to share? We have to be really careful and make sure that it is. I know we can all be, we can all be tempted to do that. We can all be tempted to, you know, share information that we shouldn't share. And maybe if we step back and we just think to ourselves, is this information going to tear down anyone? Is this information going to take a blessing from someone else? Is this information going to build somebody up? Is it really going to be helpful?
And, I think if we begin to filter the way we communicate, it's going to short-circuit this kind of gossip, this kind of triangulation, that can happen as well. Is there really a good reason for me to say this, or to talk to this person this way? Why do I want to share this information? Maybe I need to make sure what I'm saying is true before I say it, otherwise it can become rumor or gossip. And maybe we can even say, would I be embarrassed if they knew what I was saying about them? Would I be ashamed of what I've just said about them if they were standing right here? And would that help filter the information that we share with others; the way that we relate with others? I think it really would. I think those are some practical things that we could do to make sure we're striving to that level of not allowing any, not any corrupt communication come out of us.
And it is a struggle, because humanly, boy, it's easy to see the negative – it's so easy. I'm drawn to it, I see it right away. I see it in myself, which I don't want to admit, but I sure can see it in others as well, and it makes it so clear. And so, I'm sure other people see it. Shouldn't I share that with them? Well, no, I shouldn't. No I shouldn't. And if we can begin to filter things, I think it's going to be a whole different ballgame then, on the other end, of what comes out.
In fact, someone once told me – it may be a familiar story to you – but it's a story of the two pockets. And you've perhaps heard of it, uh, everybody puts on a pair of pants. You've got your two pockets in your pants. Unfortunately, one has a hole in it. One pocket is totally tore out; the other one is fine. In fact, I have a pair of jeans like that. I put my phone in that pocket, it ends up down by my socks. Maybe you've got a pair of pants like that. But, the idea behind this – I think it's an object lesson – for all of us. If you could imagine having two pockets like that. One with a gigantic hole in it; the other is just fine. What do you do when someone says something hurtful? Well, our brains have a tendency to record that, don't they? You might even think of writing it down. Take that thing and put it in your pocket; but which pocket are you going to put it in? Yeah, you'll put it in the pocket with the hole in it. Someone says something hurtful, someone says a cutting remark, someone says something that might be rumor. Someone says anything that might be rumor, put it in that pocket with the hole in it. And if they say something that's nice, something that's true, something that's helpful – yeah, make sure and record that one and stick it in your pocket that doesn't have the hole. Now, you go through a whole day of activities; there's been a lot of things that have been said throughout that day – probably a lot of things went into both pockets – either or, right? Well, at the end of the day, it's probably time to throw those pants into the wash – and if you take my mother's advice; always go through your pockets before you throw something in the laundry – what happens? Well, you dig in that one pocket where everything that was evil and bad and cutting and insulting – what are you going to find there? Well, it will be like my cell phone, it will be on the ground somewhere; you lost it during the day – it's gone, it's not there! You stick your hand into that pocket and there's nothing there. You put your hand in the other pocket, and out comes all those things that are right and good and helpful and true. And, it frames our thinking, because all too often, what I find myself doing – I write down those things that aren't so helpful and I put them in the wrong pocket. And when I turn that pocket inside out, there it is again, all the things that aren't helpful and all the things that aren't so good. But see, we've got to get our pockets sorted out, don't we? We've got to make sure we're emptying that pocket of the difficult things throughout the whole day; that they are gone. They're just not to be found.
We know Paul told us to do that very thing, didn't he? God inspired him to tell us to think that way, to make sure we put things in the right pocket; that when the things are true, we put them in that good pocket to remember. When things are honest – yeah, whatever, that whatsoever that is – we know he told the (Philippians in chapter 4 ) – that's what we do – the things that are pure, go in that pocket that doesn't have a hole in it. The things that are of a good report, that's where it's going. I'm going to remember that. The things that are virtuous, the things that are praiseworthy, I'm going to remember those things. And all the other things – I can't think about them anymore, because I've forgot them already, they're gone. They're not dwelling in my mind. And so, that's our response. That starts to reframe the way that we think, which is going to reframe the way that we talk, and the way that we communicate. And so, we can do that. We can do that. In fact, I think it's a Yiddish proverb that talks about that very thing. In fact, it puts it in the framework of friends. It says, there's three kinds of friends that are like food; fiends are like food – three kinds. There's a friend that you can't live without, right? There's food you just can't live without. It says, there are some friends like medicine. Aah, sometimes you might need it occasionally. But then, some friends are like an illness. You don't ever want those, right?
And we've got to think about those kinds of things in our thinking. There are things that we just don't want to go that way. And we want to eliminate those things and make sure they go in that pocket with the hole in it. And through God's spirit, it can happen. It can happen. We don't have to triangulate. We don't have to be on any end of that triangle, because when there's an issue, we're going to be dedicated to solving that issue, and go to the person that really can make it different. When it comes to gossip, we can do the opposite. We can share what is good and repeat only what's helpful. We can distance ourselves from it, and we don't have to yield to the temptation. We can overcome it, with the help of God. And so, when it comes to the way we talk, when it comes to the way that we communicate, that's our goal. The standard's been set. Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth. So, let's strive to make those right choices, let's strive to live up to the standard that we've been called to. And I think when we do that – we strive to do that very thing – our communication has to change. And we'll find ourselves truly fellowshipping; truly fellowshipping in the way that God intends. And so, let's do that very thing, and let no corrupt word proceed out of our mouths.