Oh how my heart wavered for so long. It would waffle between confidence (false at that), happy, sad, insecure and so on. You see, for a long time I valued the opinions of others more than I valued the words of the Lord. My time was most invested in what other people thought about me and what I thought about them; gossip, mean thoughts and facts that simply shouldn’t have been shared. What an awful, vicious cycle. My heart was ugly, it was dark and certainly not reflecting the pureness and holiness of our God. This vicious cycle launched me into a series of bad decisions which cost me. I lost a job, I lost friends, I lost trust and the list goes on. I became the topic of gossip and rumors. My world unraveled and all I could do was sit and watch it happen. Several girlfriends stood by me, loved me and encouraged me. Others jumped ship and ran as far and as fast as they could to get away from me. But can I tell you this? In going through what I have, the Lord revealed something very simple but HUGE to me! That was to shut my mouth. Just shut it! I spoke out of both sides of my mouth for so long. I would gossip, I would criticize and then I would teach Scripture! That doesn’t go together!
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. – JAMES 3:9-10
Then, I became the one others gossiped about and criticized; OUCH! When you are on the receiving end of it, you get an entirely different perspective. As I have walked through my journey of healing these last two years one of the things that hurts my heart the most – Christian women criticize and gossip A LOT! Wait wait wait…don’t stop reading yet. Please just hear me out! I am not going to get on a “holier than thou” kick and claim I am perfect now because I am not. Far from it. I share this with you as I am learning myself. I heard it said, the most acceptable sin in church is gossip. WHAT? Yet, it’s true. It is! We package it up in “concern” or we present it as a “prayer request?” We share our thoughts on what ‘so and so’ should do to fix her problem or how ‘so and so’ shouldn’t have worn that dress last week and on and on. It’s wrong. We should not do it. Yet, we do.
My heart aches so bad when I think about this now. Friend, we are ALL children of the King! No matter the mistakes we have made, what we look like, how much money we have or where we live; we are all His children. This is what the Lord reminds me of instantly whenever I find myself being critical now. He very quickly reminds me that I am gossiping about or criticizing His child. Why do we find it so easy to criticize? To gossip? Why is it not as easy to rally behind someone who is struggling and love them through? Well that’s a job that is a little tougher to do but it’s the one we must do. Can I share with you a few things the Lord has showed me in this?
A slight disclaimer here: I know this can be a sticky subject and I am certainly no expert. Just know that this comes from my heart with a desire to see hurting women encouraged.
Remember how very powerful your words are. They can either speak life into someone or death. Proverbs 12:18 says: “Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.” Words can be cutting, dividing or wounding. They can also be healing, grace-filled, encouraging and refreshing. Friend, if someone is struggling, had a misstep or going through a hard time, I can promise you this: they are their worst critic. They do not need you to remind them of how wrong they were, how terrible their life is or whatever. They have already told themselves that 1,000 times. What they need you to do is encourage and that could even be a simple smile instead of a cutting eye.
If you find yourself in a conversation full of gossip or harsh criticism; stop it. Just stop it. ESPECIALLY if you are in a bible study or life group from church. The Enemy’s playground is right there and when you allow that to happen, he has a field day. So stop the conversation. Our bible studies, Mom’s groups and life groups should be safe havens for hurting women but so often they aren’t. Help me with that sweet friend. Help me to encourage other Christian women to love and pray for our sisters who are hurting and struggling. Help them feel like they can share their hearts with us without thinking once they walk out the door it’s a feast of condemnations.
Join with me in praying that our words can be laced with love, affirmation and more than anything grace.
Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths but only what is helpful for building others up according to their need, that I may benefit those who listen. – EPHESIANS 4:29
Finally, when you find yourself hearing of a bad situation or misstep someone is living in: let your heart break for them and pray for them. Pray fervently that they would allow the Lord to work in them and that they would find their worth in nothing but Him.
I finish with this: upon hitting rock bottom and journeying through hurt, a few things stick out to me. One of those is the unchanging, unwavering, grace-filled love and encouragement from girlfriends. One of my dearest friends now is a woman whose daughter I taught in Sunday School when she was a teenager. She sat down with me in the midst of my brokenness and looked me in the eye and said “You are still a hero to me. You taught my daughter beautiful truths when she was in high school and for that I am still thankful. No mistake you make will ever change my view of you.” I am forever grateful to that friend and may I have the same grace when I’m met with a choice of gossip or grace. I pray you’ll strive for the same.
May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer. – PSALM 19:14
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Dawn Spicer is a wife to Jeremy and mom to identical twin boys. She is a part of the Womens Ministry Leadership team at River Oak Church in Chesapeake, VA. You can read her blog at thisgirlandgrace.wordpress.com.