“Can you believe she…” “Why would anybody…” “Bless her heart, what was she thinking…” We’ve all been on the receiving end of comments like these, and likely the giving end as well, if we are honest with ourselves. Statements like these, filled with criticism and contempt, are often the sparks that ignite an inferno of sinful gossip. Yet, when we are approached by a sister or friend whose tongue is wielding such words, we are presented with a golden opportunity. In that moment, our response has the power to stir the pot of gossip or squelch it.
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The Corinthians were no strangers to contentions. We know from 1 Corinthians 1:10 that there were divisions among them. In verse 3 of chapter 3, there was jealously and strife. These issues, no doubt, manifested themselves in the form of gossip just as they do today. In chapter 13, Paul provides the solution to their problems. How can love help us squelch the fire of gossip?
Love is Kind (1 Corinthians 13:4)
One of the most common pieces of advice given to help diffuse harsh and critical words toward others is to give them the benefit of the doubt. Application of the golden rule is appropriate in any situation, but it requires training our hearts and minds for this attitude to be our first thought rather than an afterthought (Matthew 7:12). A simple response to our critical friend to stop gossip in its tracks could be one of kindness. “Even if that is true, Stacy has a wonderful talent in ministering to the elderly. That’s how I’d prefer to think of her.”
Love is not puffed up (1 Corinthians 13:4)
If we were to analyze the root of all interpersonal problems, I imagine a very high percentage would be based on the issue of pride. Who doesn’t like to be better than everyone else in a given situation? Yet, competitiveness and contentions between us could be avoided if we were simply willing to esteem others more highly than ourselves and have the mind of Christ (Philippians 2:1-11). How can I squelch gossip with humility? “Sorry, I have no room to criticize Stacy, I have my own imperfections to work on.”
Love is Patient (1 Corinthians 13:4)
We know from passages like James 3 and many others that the tongue is our most difficult member to tame. Some of us may be further along in the discipline of our thoughts and words about others. Still, the opportunities to squelch gossip will come, and with it, the opportunity to patiently bear one another’s burdens (Galatians 6:1-2). “Mary, I know how easy it can be to be critical of Stacy sometimes, but I’m really working on trying to do better. Will you pray for me in this? I’ll pray for you as well, and maybe we can help hold each other accountable.”
In a world where we, as women, can be so competitive, critical, and downright catty toward one another, may we remember that love never fails (1 Corinthians 13:8). Treating each other with a spirit of kindness is always the right thing to do. Humility works in all situations, and patience with ourselves and others can diffuse the most difficult of circumstances.
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Lord, help me to exhibit the type of love that Christ showed me. May I use my words to show kindness, love, and patience to those around me. Help me to build up my sisters rather than tear them down. Give me the courage to squelch the fire of gossip and not stir it.
by Kathryn Baker
Kathryn and her husband Andy live in San Marcos, TX and worship with the University church of Christ where Andy has served as the Associate/Youth Minister for 6 years. She stays at home with their 2 daughters and enjoys teaching Bible classes to children and ladies.