We would be in a better frame of mind to remember when someone sets out to attempt to destroy us or assassinate our character because of envy, jealousy, or “perceived” offense, that it is our opportunity to shine. We are the only ones who can actually destroy ourselves by our re-Action to their tactics. They are exposing themselves and their own vulnerability and character by their attacks. They will eventually cause others to look at them more carefully and see their faults, if we keep a positive outlook, by focusing on who Jesus says we are and not others.
Unfortunately, some live a life of attempting to attack those around them who don’t cater to their every whim. We must allow them to self-destruct, however painful it might be. Jealousy, envy, and name-calling are at the root of a very bitter person. These behaviors are antithetical to a life led by the Holy Spirit. When a life is led by Jesus, it is full of the fruits of the Spirit; which are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Gossip is the opposite of these and one of the most insidious, because it entraps people and entices people to participate. There are different forms of gossip also, as explained here: Proverbs 6:16-19 The definition of gossip is idle talk or rumors about the personal affairs of others; hearsay, scandal, and usually gossip isn’t a firsthand account, although there are those who gather evidence to use against you, posing as friends. Psalm 41:6 Many will try to disguise gossip and think it’s innocent to tell of another’s ‘troubles’ in a caring manner, but it isn’t and some don’t stop at caring; they do it out of vindictiveness. Gossip is a wildfire that must be put out – Don’t give an ear to its licking flames, don’t listen! Stop those who want to tell you the latest about others. When we shut our ears; by not listening; we are stopping those who want to share a ‘Bless their heart’ story. We are throwing water on the flames. If all of us did this, there wouldn’t even be a cinder left to ignite the flames.
I am reminded of an incident when I was a child about nine years of age. I grew up on my grandparents’ 80 acre pecan farm, with plenty of room to roam, and I loved it. One crisp, clear, cool fall afternoon, I piled up leaves about 30 feet from the back of our house to make a fort, which I was able to stack a couple of feet high. It was high enough that I could hide behind the walls if I scrunched down. I had plenty of material of twigs and dead leaves. The leaves were damp, so they stacked well. I had an active imagination and I was the youngest of three, much younger than my two older brothers, who usually couldn’t be bothered with a little sister. This allowed me to make up stories and play alone. But after I built the fort, sitting there became a bit boring and I wanted more excitement! I started to pretend an enemy had crossed the moat (our ditch) and set my fort on fire! But even then it wasn’t enough; I wanted to make it realistic. I knew we had matches in the house, because we had a gas range, which my mother needed the matches to light. Although I was forbidden to play with matches, I snuck in the back door, through our utility room, which led to the kitchen and waited patiently for my opportunity. I snatched a few from the box while my mother wasn’t looking. I ran back out and lit one on our concrete cellar and tried to catch my ‘fort’ on fire, but it wouldn’t spark right away, so I kept trying. I was on my last match when my father stuck his head out the back door to tell me dinner was ready. Knowing I shouldn’t be playing with matches, I dropped the match and ran for the house, forgetting the match was lit.
About 15 minutes into dinner, my father said, “I smell smoke! I wonder who’s burning today?” as he looked at my mother, he asked if any of the other farms had gathered their brushfires yet, and she replied that she didn’t know. Our closest neighbor was a quarter mile away. Suddenly it dawned on me how I’d dropped the match, so I jumped up and peeked through the dining room drapes to look. Just as I was about to be scolded for getting up from the table, I yelled, in a panic stricken voice, “My fort’s on fire!!” and pulled open the drapes. Everyone jumped up from the table to see, and my father barked out orders on what to do to put out the fire. We had to keep from burning all the leaves on the 80 acres, and I stood frozen there staring, then burst into tears. The fire was spreading quickly, even though the leaves were wet. I wasn’t thinking about the farm, I was thinking about all the work I’d done in building that fort for hours. Finally, I went outside and watched — the hose from the front yard was now hooked up to the back spigot, and my fort was almost gone, as I stood watching in horror! Then, I realized I had started this pandemonium with one small careless match. I snapped out of my remorse as I heard my father yelling about the pecan orchard, because I helped my grandfather on the farm all the time and realized the bigger picture. It wasn’t about a fort, it was about an orchard! I pitched in and all five of us worked with water and gunny sacks to put out the fire. Obviously, I was in trouble with my parents for playing with matches and starting a fire, but thankfully, it had only spread about an acre. About the time we had it almost out, my grandparents drove up to see why smoke was coming from our house, because from their vantage point it looked like our house was on fire. I don’t remember what my punishment was, because I was in so much remorse with what could have happened that my parents must have decided I had learned my lesson. But they weren’t easy on chastisement, so I must have had to do or go without something.
I can think of so many parallels between gossip, responsibility, and carelessness from this story. I had to sneak into the house to get the matches. I was doing something that I knew I wasn’t supposed to do, but I went ahead, and when I got caught, I didn’t confess, I dropped the tiny lit fire. In starting the fire, I could have destroyed a whole orchard, think how many lives are destroyed by gossip. Also, when the fire caused the smoke, it caused panic and alarm, even bringing my grandparents hightailing through the farm to come to our aid. But some people don’t think of all the consequences of their actions. If I had thought about that lit match, I don’t I would have dropped it, but maybe I would so I wouldn’t get caught. Do you know people who even in the midst of telling gossip in front of the person they’re talking about, will quickly tell the story quietly? Gossip doesn’t stop with telling stories, relating facts, because sometimes the facts you know shouldn’t be shared and become misconstrued. If you ever played the game “Rumors” as a child, where you whisper a sentence in the ear of the person next to you and then it’s repeated and whispered through the ears of even just ten people, by that time it’s a completely different sentence. With gossip, the story is usually embellished, and every person has to add his or her own perception, that’s when the fire starts. Once the fire starts, it’s hard to put out, even if there are wet leaves (those who won’t listen) because there are a few dry leaves (those who will listen), so eventually you get a spark and then a smolder. Sometimes it takes a while for the smolder to linger, before the fire rages, like my fort fire. Then there’s damage and everyone comes running to put out what just one person started by being disobedient. This is why we must control our mouths and control our perceptions, we should never make presumptions or speculate. We cannot read other people’s minds or feel their feelings, those are theirs alone. It is best to contain a fire, by never allowing it to ignite. We should mind our own business and contain the fires. We should stop the fires that others want to start.
People who shrug off deliberate deceptions, saying, “I didn’t mean it, I was only joking,” Are worse than careless campers who walk away from smoldering campfires. When you run out of wood, the fire goes out; when the gossip ends, the quarrel dies down. – Proverbs 26:18-20
A bit in the mouth of a horse controls the whole horse. A small rudder on a huge ship in the hands of a skilled captain sets a course in the face of the strongest winds. A word out of your mouth may seem of no account, but it can accomplish nearly anything—or destroy it! It only takes a spark, remember, to set off a forest fire. A careless or wrongly placed word out of your mouth can do that. By our speech we can ruin the world, turn harmony to chaos, throw mud on a reputation, send the whole world up in smoke and go up in smoke with it, smoke right from the pit of hell. – James 3:5-6