Let’s play a game. I am thinking of a word. This word is one of Satan’s arsenal of explosives to toss at us on the job. Most all will fall for it. It occurs in the teacher’s lounge, in team meetings, and basically anywhere out of earshot of the victims. I have succumbed to it many times, and I bet you have too. It is as thick and juicy as a 24-ounce KC strip steak from the Herford House and seems to satisfy the soul. Once you take a bite, you’ll be craving another. You might even inquire more about the topic and possibly even pass the news on to others. It is a virus. The people that catch it will do one of two things … they will either pass it on to another or they will inject God’s truth as the antidote to kill the virus on the spot.
Any guesses on what word we are discussing here? Oh, come on. I know you know it! Here, let me toss you an easy one right over the middle of the plate … it involves rumors, whispering, and it rhymes with schmossip. Okay, that’s not even a word, but if you don’t know what we’re talking about yet, I’ll just tell it to you. The word, my friends, is gossip. Ever caught that virus before? Have you ever picked up a note from a student with some juicy details about a budding middle school romance? Ever been in the teacher’s lounge and heard people talking about the teacher that has been gone for more than three days only to learn that their marriage is on the rocks and they are going through a severe depression? What do you do with this information? What does God call us to do about the situation?
Before we go any further, let me just say that I am writing this as much for myself as for anyone else. I am by no means immune to these temptations, and I will sadly admit that I have fallen for plenty of mouthwatering, seemingly succulent gossip through the years. How about the time I caught one of my 6th hour female students last year smooching her boyfriend in the corner of the library. Don’t you know I was whispering about that in my team plan the following day! But here’s the thing … you have to ask yourself the question what good that does to pass the information along. Are you damaging the reputation of someone? How about this … if the situation were reversed and people were talking about you, how would you feel?
True story … the fall of 2011 through the summer of 2012 was quite the tumultuous time for me. I’ll spare you the details, but I will say that I needed time away from work for nearly a month and a half to improve my mental health. Thank the good Lord that I healed that summer and came back as fresh as ever in the coming fall semester. Nobody knew the reason why I was out, but don’t you know the rumors were flying! I attended a parade in the community to commemorate a fallen soldier, a former student and football player from my school who had given his life in Afghanistan. While paying homage to him, a former student of mine suddenly appeared next to me. His mouth curled into a confused smile as he confessed, “I thought you were fired!”
Those words stung. Talk about a poison that flooded my soul in a matter of seconds to the point where I had to catch my breath. I winced as if being slugged with a sucker punch to the gut. So that was what the kids were talking about. I knew it would be rough, but I had no clue the repercussions would be that painful. I quickly reassured the kid that I was doing much better and that I was looking forward to coming back in the fall—or so I thought. I will never forget walking into that first faculty meeting on the first day back. It was as if I were an alien. I think people just avoided me because they didn’t know what else to do. It felt as if the entire staff was in on a secret about me that could not be hidden. Lucky for me I was wrong. I’m sure there were some whispers about me, but many truly didn’t even know what happened. It just felt like everyone was gossiping. In the end my colleagues welcomed me back with open arms much like our amazing God welcomes back anyone falling into His loving arms.
So, let’s cut to the chase here. What do we do if we see or hear gossip? God’s truth is found in Proverbs 11: 12-13 when it states, “He who despises his neighbor lacks sense, but a man of understanding keeps silent. He who goes about as a talebearer reveals secrets, but he who is trustworthy conceals a matter.” Translation: if you hear it, don’t spread it. Squelch it. Change the subject. Stick up for the victim if necessary. God calls us to be bigger than the temptations we face, and the more of these scriptures we hide in our hearts, the more we will be likely to pull them out at the right times and overcome Satan’s lies. As Christian teachers, the only words we should be spreading are words that are helpful, words that give hope, and words that encourage. We should never be a part of words that bring others down.
The tongue is a crazy mechanism of God’s creation. In James 3: 8-10 Paul calls us out saying, “But no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be.” How can my lips be praising God on Sunday in worship and be savoring gossip the next day? Be careful of the words that come out of your mouth. Speak life to others. Or as Hawk Nelson says it, “Words can bring you up, words can bring you down, start a fire in your heart, or put it out.”
What will your words be doing today?