Whatever You Ask Not Be Repeated, Will Be Repeated… Trust Me!!!

“When are the British coming?  I won’t tell… I promise!”    Paul Revere

As a minister or Christian vocational worker, in some people’s eyes you automatically become trustworthy, and able to be trusted to keep even the deepest darkest secrets.  As a result, you’ll find that people will dump on you a verbal truckload of problems, personal struggles and even their most private sins and temptations.  And if that isn’t enough, they’ll be glad to dump SOMEONE ELSE’S secrets on you as well!  Maybe you’ll hear….

 

“Did you know that Evelyn has a terrible problem with gas?”

“Have you noticed how Bob won’t go out of state with the group when we go on trips?  It’s because he’s on parole!”

“Judy & Terry on the same committee?  Are you crazy?  Didn’t you know that Judy has hated her since she caught her flirting with her husband at their office New Year’s Eve Party!?”

 

Sometimes the tidbits people throw your way are not so innocent, and can inflict major damage on the integrity of an individual, a church or even the gospel.  Maybe you’ve heard something whispered in the church halls like one of the following statements:

 

“Some people in the church feel like there’s some funny business with the pastor and the weekly offering.”

“He’s a single man, and he wants to work with children in Sunday School?  Don’t you think that’s strange?  I heard they had some trouble with him and the children at his last church.”

 

And the list of examples of this kind of verbal unloading could go on and on.  But when you boil away all of the explanations for WHY someone felt the need to “share” these kinds of things with you, what are we really left with?  GOSSIP!   Pure and simple, it’s gossip.

We like to dress it up and call it something different.  Some people excuse their ramblings as necessary bits of information for the well being of those it’s being shared with.  Simply put, if the individual is able to blame your need for the information as the reason it had to be shared, then they are off the hook.  Another way gossip is disguised is in spiritual clothing.  Destructive conversation is masked in the form of a “prayer request” or a “deep concern” over the problems that are being shared.  The Bible is very clear when it states that “The bad words that come out of your mouth are what make you unclean.” [Matthew 15:11].  It also says in a later passage, “What comes from your heart is what makes you unclean” (Mark 7:20].  God knows the words that are rolling off of your tongue; more importantly though, He knows the heart behind them, and there is no excuse for a heart of gossip.

When someone comes to you not as a gossip, but with a genuine confidence that they ask you to keep, it is vital that you be trustworthy enough and disciplined enough to keep it.  Your integrity is one of the most valuable commodities you possess.  Once it’s damaged, it’s very difficult to heal… Once it’s lost, it is nearly impossible to replace.  When you pass on information that was given to you in a confidence, you not only injure yourself and the one who shared the confidence, but anyone touched by that information, even the one that you illegitimately passed it on to.

Obviously there are exceptions to this rule.  If someone passes on information in the form of a confidence to you that they intend to do something illegal or damaging, then it is the responsible thing to do to inform the proper people.  Also, should someone share with you that they intend to do bodily harm to themselves or someone else, then this information has moved outside of the realm of gossip, and has become a safety issue.  Not only can you share this information, but you really must intervene for the best interests of all people involved.  Finally, if someone shares with you that they have been the victim of abuse, especially a child, it is imperative that you involve the authorities and organizations that can stop this abuse, and work with the victim of abuse towards healing.

It would be impossible in this text, or for that matter in any text to address every possible scenario for dealing with this issue of gossip.  The best thing that you can do for yourself and others is early on in your ministry of working with people to set a standard of what kinds of things you would or would not repeat, and stick to it.  Seek wise counsel of those who have been serving people for years as to what they will and won’t repeat, and how they deal with people who abuse their privilege of speech by gossiping.  Ask yourself the simple question, “Even if it were true, would I want others saying this about me?”

You will also find that as you serve in leadership roles that important or confidential information will often find its way to you.  Many times it comes unsolicited, like an uninvited stranger into your home.  But it will come, and what you do with that information can very well undo years of relationships and credibility.  How do you keep this from happening?  In a nutshell, learn to keep your mouth shut.

There is something very powerful and intoxicating about having private or personal information about others that no one else has.  But this kind of feeling is caustic, and has a tendency to try and work its way out of us, much like acid out of an old battery.  The information, no matter how juicy or how amazing, isn’t that juicy or amazing if we’re the only ones who know it… so we look for someone to pass it on to.  Now most of us are not guilty of standing on a roof top or in the center of the shopping mall and letting our secrets fly.  We usually search for one or two, or maybe a few, that we feel safe with, and that our information is safe with them.  The problem with that scenario is we don’t realize the infectious nature of gossip.  Just as it infects us with the drive to share with others, so it will those we gossip to.  And so the cycle goes on.  If you’re not careful, this cycle can damage or destroy your ministry and service to people.

One last thought for you to consider, and question for you to answer.  Imagine with me that you’re standing high up on a hill, in the center of a clear, cool stream.  Downhill from you are people that you care about, friends and family who are all dear to you.  They all look dry & thirsty, longing for a drink.  But you notice that the water from the stream hasn’t reached them yet, and it only seems to move towards them as you speak.  There is one catch, though.  As you speak positive words, words of affirmation, encouragement and hope, the water flows swift and clear, sparkling pure and refreshing.  But as your words become critical of others, repeating foul rumors and off hand gossip, the water churns up muddy and foul, too offensive for anyone to drink.  That was the thought, and here is the question.  What’s the water like for the people in and around your ministry?  Can they count on a fresh drink of positive talk when they are with you?  Or instead, do they consistently find themselves being splashed up on by the muddy waters of gossip and criticism about others from your lips?

Don’t repeat what you’ve promised not to.  Share only what is good and builds others up, not what tears them down.  And trust me; be very careful what you share with others, even if you ask for it not to be repeated.  Most likely it will.

 

 

Questions to Discuss with Your Mentor

  1. What is the one situation where you have seen gossip cause the most damage?
  2. Do you think there is ever a time when you should break a confidence?  If so, when?  If not, why not?
  3. What is your standard for whether or not you will repeat something?

 

Personal Learning Activities

  1. Do I think people consider me trustworthy when they share a confidence with me?
  2. Would those closest to me say that I have a negative or critical spirit that causes me to say things about others that I don’t care for?
  3. If there was one person I REALLY needed to seek forgiveness from for gossiping about him or her, it is…


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