When Frustration Leads to Gossip
The following scripture is incredibly important to our growth in Christ and our spiritual maturity hinges, in part, on if we apply this simple principle on a daily basis:
“Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.” Ephesians 4:29
When I was raising my children I tried to encourage them to think and say the best of others. My mom taught me that we don’t have explicit insight into the private world of other people and so we shouldn’t assume that we know everything about them — especially why they do what they do. I wanted my children to walk in the same principle.
If someone acts in an offensive way it may be because they’re carrying some weight that they don’t know how to handle and it’s being played out in their lives in what appears to us as terrible decisions and awful stewardship of their Christianity, and life, in general.
Or, it may be flat out sin that they’re indulging. That happens too, obviously. Or, maybe there’s something going on that we’re just not privy to and we’re making a lot of assumptions about them that we just don’t know. In any case, unless God has given us spiritual authority in their lives as a pastor or leader, we have absolutely no positional right to talk about it to others.
We can judge the fruit of their lives (which is a whole separate post) but we have no right to assume the role of God by climbing into the judgment seat of Christ in order to point out where they’ve missed it. That job is taken already by the Lord Himself.
And, quite frankly, if you are a pastor or leader in their life, until they’re ready to receive correction or direction, you’re wasting energy by talking to them about it more than a few times. In that case, it’s always best to pray and wait it out and be ready to receive them, should they return for help.
Even if someone abuses our mercy and patience and treats us poorly while they’re “working it out,” it does not release us to begin faultfinding and criticizing them. In those instances, our role is to continue to put the above scripture in to practice.
We all know that it sometimes feels good to our flesh to judge others when our frustration with them is elevated. (If we were truly honest.) When someone “acts a fool,” (in our opinion), especially for an extended period of time, our patience can wear thin. In those moments, it can become easy to become a small person and start criticizing as a way to vent whatever frustrations we have stacked up inside of us because we’ve not properly given our opinion of the situation to God for Him to sort out with …. US. God always starts with our attitude first.
(As a side note, I would also say that if we are ever frustrated with someone to the point of venting to others then it’s probably because we’re trying to “fix” something that only God can fix — assuming that He sees it as something that needs to be corrected. I would also say that feeling frustrated is a pretty good indicator that we’re not trusting God properly to take care of things in the long run. After all, the Bible tells us to “cast our cares” on Him not “tell it like it is” to our friends in order to have peace in our lives.)
The problem with being negative about others is that it’s a slippery slope that not only doesn’t help our relationship with the person with whom we’re struggling, but it also draws those with whom we’re “sharing” our valued opinion into the same mess of yuck and bad feelings that we find ourselves having to battle.
(I know this, because to my shame, I’ve done it. I’ve also had it done to me.)
If I was being completely transparent with you, I’d tell you that I’ve never once come away from a conversation with someone (even if it’s me leading it) who is being critical about another person’s situation in which I didn’t feel “slimed” afterward.
As a Christian, I can honestly say that I can’t remember a time in which I’ve spoken with anyone who was criticizing or judging someone in which I came away saying, “Wow! I feel so much better now that we’ve judged that person! Now that was a life-giving exchange of information! Can we get together and do this again sometime?”
Rather, just the opposite is true.
Every single time I come away feeling convicted by the Holy Spirit for engaging in what is nothing more than gossip — even if I didn’t personally contribute to the chaos, I was a party to it because I didn’t stop it. The truth is that slime begets slime. And good words and grace beget good words and grace. It’s that simple.
I’ve heard different people say that so-and-so doesn’t like them because they tell the truth. I would suggest that sometimes people don’t like us because we come across as negative, critical, mean people. That’s a terrible and ill fitting mantle for Christians to wear. It just doesn’t suit us because Jesus lives inside of us through His Holy Spirit and He’s the ultimate Source of edification for others.
In the moments when we’re choosing to be critical and not adhere to the principles of God’s Word, we’re warring against the Prince of Peace Who lives inside of us and we’re never going to win that battle. Ever. Life is so much sweeter when we do it God’s way.
As Christians, we have the high privilege of being conduit for Christ. We are made to be His ministers of His reconciliation, not His ministers of our chaos. We’re ambassadors for Christ not His appointed hit man to take His precious people out.
Let’s make a special effort today to put into practice what God has given to us through His Son, Jesus, which is the ability and power to speak good words of life and grace to others.
You’re loved, Saints,
Sarah co-pastors with her husband John an amazing little church named Faith Center of Paducah. She and John are a blended family of seven (three married children) and have two grandchildren, Addison and Jack, who hung the moon. Besides Jesus, John and all her crazy kids and church family, Sarah loves to write and teach and encourage others to hope again. If you’d like to contact her directly, you can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Awaken and Equip
Faith Center exists to awaken people to a life-giving relationship with Jesus Christ and membership in the church family and equip them to fulfill their God-given purpose of maturity in Christ, ministry in the church body and missional living in the world.