“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.” Ephesians 6:12-13 NIV
Back in October my family had someone working for us to take care of my sister who is physically disabled. We’ve had a hard time hiring people because there just doesn’t seem to be a lot of people willing to do the job who are dedicated and trustworthy. We had a woman working for us for about ten years. She was close to our family, she knew the routine and we trusted her. She had good work ethic.
I just recently moved in with my parents in order to cut costs and help them out. My living quarters in their home are in the basement, a doorway away from my disabled sister’s apartment. I was particularly close to the woman who worked here. We would often talk and lean on each other for emotional support. We even went to church together.
In a period of about a month her elderly parents health began to deteriorate. She had to drive an hour one way every day to get to their house and take care of them. In this time she pulled her shoulder and had to take some time off. Things got really overwhelming for her. One day when she came to work I had just let the dogs out. One of them had a urinary tract infection as I would find out later so she peed on accident on the bathroom floor. I didn’t know about it until the caregiver stepped in it. We thought it was just moisture on the floor from the humidity. She cleaned it up.
The next day when she was working she accused me of trying to make her fall. Obviously, that wasn’t my intention so I apologized for the incident. The next day she came in she was in pain for an injury (I didn’t make her fall) and taking meds and she blew up at me while my mom was sitting on the couch. She called me all sorts of names and my mom and I were shocked. She told me to never come in my sister’s apartment while she was there again. I didn’t want to make waves so I said “fine,” and basically stayed away from her for the week. She came in to work about a week later with her mom and apologized to me. I forgave her but it was awkward. About a week after that she came into work and my mom asked her to clean something in the kitchen. She took offense and wrote my mom a rude text message when she got home. To make a long story short my mom let her go.
I used to talk to her a lot about common friends. There were certain people she hated and when she talked about them I would get angry at them. I didn’t see the problem until after she left and I realized how many friends and relatives I was angry at as a result of the negativity. The thing about gossip is that it spreads like fire. Slander is very serious. Whether true or not, “a gossip separates close friends,” (Proverbs 16:28 NIV). It muddies the water. The tongue is hard to tame (James 3:8). The problem with slander is that you can’t take it back. Once you’ve said something it might never be undone. It can ruin someone’s reputation and ultimately, it can ruin their lives. What happened was very easy to see in hindsight and it all started with self-talk. Instead of taking a positive outlook about the situation she took a negative stance. She chose to see the bad instead of the good and then she meditated on what she perceived as bad intentions. This riled her anger until she could no longer contain it and she blew up at me.
The devil is tricky. If he can get you to accept his negative viewpoint about something he pretty much has you under his control. If you don’t change your thinking you are a willing participant in the negativity. You’ve crossed over from light to darkness. The war we wage is not against each other. It’s against strongholds in our thought systems that the devil puts in place through lying to us (Ephesians 6:12-13). If we believe what he says we are going to act on it. Even Jesus says not to judge other people and Paul the Apostle took it a step further and said not to even judge yourself (Matthew 7:1, 1 Corinthians 4:3). We don’t have the mind for it. God does. His mind is infinite and he sees the motives of our hearts. When we choose to let God do the judging we are less likely to offend others, ourselves and God.
Eckhart Tolle explained the mechanism of gossip well in his book “A New Earth.” In it he says that the ego is strengthened when you gossip because “you feel superior in that moment because you know more.” The ego is like the bane of humanity that is our shadow side. Christians would probably describe the ego as the evil one.
Tolle goes on to say,
“Many people are addicted to gossiping partly for this reason. In addition, gossiping often carries an element of malicious criticism and judgment of others, and so it strengthens the ego through the implied but imagined more superiority that is there whenever you apply a negative judgment to anyone.” (Tolle 82)
When someone gossips to you shut your ears. If you can’t get away from the situation try to stay positive about it and remember that the person who offended you is not your enemy. The devil is your enemy. He knows if he can suck you into believing his lies, your behavior will be negative. Don’t accept lies. Don’t accept slander either. When someone uses slander they are obviously using it for malicious reasons – whether theirs or or the devil’s. It’s good to allow people room to make mistakes. If someone offends you you need to approach them yourself and discuss the problem and resolution so that you don’t fall into sin.
Slander tries to make people look bad. When you listen to it it causes you to hate the person being gossiped about even though you were not even the one originally offended. You could be a third party but now in your mind is this juicy piece of gossip that has just condemned another person for something they may or may not have said or done (Proverbs 18:8). Leviticus 19:16 says,
“Do not go about spreading slander among your people. Do not do anything that endangers your neighbor’s life. I am the Lord.” (NIV)
Slander defiles the person who utters it. Jesus says in Matthew 15:18-20,
“But the things that come out of a person’s mouth come from the heart, and these defile them. For out of the heart come evil thoughts—murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. These are what defile a person; but eating with unwashed hands does not defile them.” (NIV)
We all sin and judging someone else’s sin is not appropriate if we don’t want God to judge us negatively. Luke 6:37 admonishes,
“Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.” (NIV)
As Christians we need to take into consideration that Christ paid for our sin and theirs. To point out another person’s flaws is not necessary or productive because we all have them. It’s all ugly and to meditate on someone’s flaws is a willful act of disobedience because we’ve been told to think about good things. It’s good to be honest with yourself and aware of your and other people’s flaws but to mull over negative aspects of people’s personality in your mind will only cause you to get angry and step into realms of hate. Love always sees the best in people. 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 describes what love is. It says,
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”
To think about things that make you angry only causes you to sin. You have control over what you put into your mind. Fill it with positive things like scripture and thanksgiving. Think about things you are thankful for. Write them down if you need to physically manifest the words and fix your mind on them. Phillipians 4:8 says,”Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things,” (NIV).
Because you can’t take back things that come out of your mouth, be careful. Don’t let the devil poison your mind with gossip or hatred. In this case it separated close friends and someone lost their job. It’s unfortunate but at least we learned something from it.
Tolle, Eckhart. A New Earth: Create a Better Life. A New Earth: Create a Better Life, Penguin, 2009, p. 82.