16. Resolved, never to speak evil of anyone, so that it shall tend to his dishonour, more or less, upon no account except for some real good.
Our culture hails gossip. We have countless magazines devoted to it, television programmes that revolve around it, and even an american sitcom "Gossip girl" which takes its title from it. And let's be honest... we all love a bit of gossip, don't we? We love to be in on the secrets, we love to be the first to know, we love the sense of power it gives us; knowing something that no-one else does. We love the feeling of superiority it gives us, reveling in someone else's failure, because it makes us feel better about ourselves. If we're honest, its ugly. And it reveals the ugliest sides of our character...
I know I succumb to it on countless occasions... in the staff room, when out for coffee with friends, in the comfort of my own home and even, dare I admit it, in the "prayer requests" we so often share...
"Can I ask you to pray for... ? They are really struggling in this way at the moment..."
Am I genuinely seeking prayer for that person? Or sometimes, is there an ugly little voice inside me that wants to show off my knowledge, and make me feel better about myself?! How sick is that?!
I know my own heart is capable of so much evil. That even, at times, when I'm strong enough (with Christ's help) to refrain from entering in to 'that conversation', I secretly delight in hearing the gossip and hoarding it away to boost my own pride. Horrible, horrible, horrible...
What scares me now, as a mother, is knowing that my little girl is growing up in a culture that celebrates gossip. She will, I am sure, at some point succumb to the urge to gossip, and likewise, I have no doubt that she will also be the subject of gossip at some point in her little life. I hate that thought. Everything within me wants to shout out "Don't talk about my little girl like that!"
Like probably every other parent on the planet, I want so much for my little girl to be different. I want her to be kind, and thoughtful, I want her to be strong and secure in herself. Ultimately, though, I know these are things I can try and teach her, but I will fail. Lovely as my daughter is, she is a sinner and won't be able to overcome these temptations and pressures in her own strength. She will need the Holy Spirit to help her.
I pray daily for my little girl, that she will come to faith in Christ while she is young. And I pray she'll be like him, that those around her "will be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say" about her (Titus 2:8)
I think, though, that sometimes we can use the prayer card to shirk our responsibilities as parents. I can't change my daughter's heart, only God can do that, but I have been given a God-given responsibility to raise her in a way that brings glory to him. I think back on my childhood, and do you know what? I can't think of a time I ever heard my parents bad-mouthing someone in front of me. That's not to say they didn't (they are sinners and I'm sure would admit they do at times!) but I never heard it. They were careful with their words in front of us as children, and so it wasn't something they did, but rather something they didn't do that impacted us in such a huge way.
As a Mama, I know I need to commit this area of gossip to the Lord for my own heart, but also for my daughter's and do everything in my power to teach her to say "only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen" (Ephesians 4:29)
Will you join me in attempting to be counter-cultural???