I’m trying to avoid speaking poorly about others and it’s something that I get easily caught up in. How can I avoid gossiping about others?
— Margaret in Springfield
Yes, this can easily happen. Where two or three gather, there will likely be gossip. Being the gossiper or the subject of the gossip is never good. Words can destroy another’s reputation, and when you are the subject of gossip, it is so difficult to rebuild your good character. To love your neighbor as yourself is the basis to avoid gossiping.
So, what can you do to avoid gossiping? Turn to God with a repentant and pure heart so you’ll have the power to resist talking poorly about others. Take a look at the attitudes you hold and the comments you make. Examine why you are tempted to speak negatively and pray for God to give you the strength to confront and overcome those temptations. Confess the times you’ve gossiped or criticized in the past and invite God to transform you. Release any pride or fear that is obstructing you from making the changes you would like and be open to God’s correction and guidance.
Pray for people you have hurt when you spoke negatively about them. Ask God to heal them. Also, pray for people who have hurt you in the past through their negative words about you. Forgive them and ask God to let them be aware of his loving presence with them.
When you find yourself being pulled into negative conversations, pray for God’s wisdom. You may ask the speaker: “Who told you this information?” “Have you spoken to those who are directly involved with this situation?” “What do you expect me to do with this information?”
Respond to criticism with encouraging words about the person being spoken about. “Never let evil talk pass your lips; say only the good things men need to hear, things that will really help them.” (Eph 4:29)
I find the following to be helpful. Use this simple formula “THINK” before speaking of any person or subject that is controversial.
T — Is it True?
H — Is it Helpful?
I — Is it Inspiring?
N — Is it Necessary?
K — Is it Kind?
If what we are about to say does not pass these tests, we should keep our mouths shut.
Finally, remember the little saying that tells us what kind of minds we have: Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people.
The Apostle Paul provides a key for incorporating these concepts, saying, “Finally, brothers, your thoughts should be wholly directed to all that is true, all that deserves respect, all that is honest, pure, admirable, decent, virtuous, or worthy of praise.” (Philippians 4:8). By applying his instruction, gossip can be stopped. Let us all strive to use the power of our words for good.
Father Joe Ring is pastor at Christ the King Parish in Springfield.