It started out as merely two friends in deep conversation. Two friends sharing their hearts and their struggles. Yet slowly, it developed into sharing more than just personal struggles, it evolved into sharing the struggles of others. The shortcomings of those who were not privy to our intimate conversation. And while it began innocently enough, with words expressing true concern for another’s life, it subtly turned to something more. It became a platform for conjecture, a discussion of what might possibly be within the heart of others that would prompt such actions from them. Slowly, twist by turn, what began as an innocent conversation between two friends became a platform that set the stage for gossip to rear its ugly head.
I daresay, we’ve all lived there more often than we care to admit. Expressing concern… that became conjecture… that became gossip. How easily our hearts can be fooled. How subtly Satan invades the corners of our conversations, slipping in unawares until he has wiggled a slimy toehold and turned it into a foothold that, if left unchecked, can quickly become a stronghold. All in the guise of expressing “concern” for another.
Gossip. A sin that seems so trite in comparison to the atrocities of evil that haunt this world, yet a sin that overpowers so many of us with its glib tongue. And while I know that gossip is a sinful destination that I would do well to avoid completely, nevertheless, I find that I’m still so easily tricked into being led there along a pathway that stems from a heart of care and concern. How can cares become so insidious? How can concern give sway to gossip so easily? More importantly, how can I protect myself from walking that path at the next given opportunity?
Perhaps the best defense against so sly and crafty a foe is to pray the words of Psalm 141:3-4a — Set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips. Do not incline my heart to any evil thing…
For as surely as the tongue leads, so shall the heart steadily follow. How quickly the pure streams of living water become muddied with the additives of loose lips. The psalmist here seems to get that. He understands that he who holds the tongue holds the heart, and he who holds the heart holds the man. And that is why his plea is placed before God; that’s why his prayer entreats the King to not abandon him to his own inclinations. For if left to ourselves, history has proven that we will soon leave the right.
While freedom of speech is a portion of independence I value greatly, it does not give me the privilege to accuse or slander others with my words, even words expressed as prayer concerns. (Did anyone else cringe with that sentiment?) But let’s be real here: All too often, Christians attempt to excuse our gossip by turning it into a prayer of concern for others, expounding on the “details” so that everyone can join us in praying more “effectively.” The truth is, we would do best to pray a prayer asking God to bless us with the grace of silence. More often than not, that is really the only prayer that needs to be implemented.
The next time you sense your conversation is about to be hijacked by that sly foe called gossip, I encourage you (and include myself in this charge) to implement the grace of silence. Exercise caution and ask the Lord to keep the doors of your lips. For in most cases, silence really is golden. Especially when talking with friends with whom we have a tendency to overshare. Proceed with care and be on guard, only opening the gateway to words when something good and true is to be said. Otherwise, we would do well to stick to our mothers’ sage advice: If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.
Let’s join the psalmist in committing our mouths and our tongues to the Lord.
For if the tongue and the heart are under God’s care, all is safe.