About 8 months ago, I started my new job at a deli near my university. I got to know everyone who worked weekday shifts fairly quickly, and we got along just splendidly! They did, however, warn me about her. Yes, Jordan (who’s real name will remain a mystery) was that one co-worker who ruined all the fun. According to them, she was too serious about the job, didn’t appreciate humor and generally didn’t make things fun. Before I knew it, my first weekend shift had arrived, and I nervously awaited working alongside Jordan. Much to my surprise, I didn’t get the chance to meet her! Instead, a friendly team of coworkers welcomed me and made the day go by quickly. Before I left for the day, I ran through everyone’s names so I could remember them. The last girl’s response took me aback – “My name’s Jo… Or Jordan if you want to call me by my full name!”
This was the girl everyone else had warned me about?! She was nothing like they had described! Jordan and I happily continued working alongside each other for several months to follow. It turned out, her disposition at work was less about her disliking the idea of fun, and more about the fact that she simply loved our restaurant so much that she wanted it to grow and for us to be mature representatives of it.
This situation reminded me of how difficult it can be to control the things we say sometimes. Let me just say that I’m speaking to myself first in all of this. But typically, as Christians we often excuse ourselves from “gossip” by exclaiming, “Oh, I’m just venting!” The problem comes when we get so comfortable with “venting” that we slip up every once in a while and it becomes something closer to slander or gossip instead.
“We use our tongues to praise our Lord and Father, but then we curse people, whom God made like Himself. Praises and curses come from the same mouth! My brothers and sisters, this should not happen.” James 3:9-10 (NCV)
What good is it having a community of brothers and sisters in Christ if we go around speaking ill of one another? Not only does it cause divisions and problems among us, but it also draws us further away from our main goal as ambassadors for Christ – making Him known to others and knowing Him more ourselves!
During one of many conversations with Jordan, she told me, “You know… You’re the first new person who came in and wasn’t afraid of me. After hearing what the others have to say, most newbies have already decided they don’t enjoy working with me before we’ve even met.” Now, this happened the way it did because I wasn’t aware of who Jordan was until later on during that first shift. However, I couldn’t help but wonder, would I have treated her differently if I knew she was the same person the others had told me about?
“Remind the believers… to be ready to do good, to speak no evil about anyone, to live in peace, and to be gentle and polite to all people.” Titus 3:1-2 (NCV)
So how can we make sure our words aren’t hurtful towards one another? We’ve got to be more conscious of what’s coming out of our mouths! Here are a few questions you may want to ask yourself before talking about anyone:
1) Would I be able to say this to that person’s face? If I can’t, then I shouldn’t be saying it!
2) Could my words affect the way someone else feels about this person? Will I cause someone who hasn’t met this person yet to have preconceived opinions of them
3) Who am I saying these things to? Will they respond by encouraging more talk or by sincerely praying for peace between myself and the person I’m venting about?
Ultimately, the best way to decide whether you should or should not be speaking about someone is by considering the way Jesus talked about others – not maliciously, but out of kindness and purity in heart. His compassionate spirit and gentle words were all that were needed to make those around Him feel loved and cared for in His presence. My prayer is that others would be able to say the same about you and I as well!