Ever notice how many television shows, newspapers, magazines, and websites report only outrageous and scandalous news? Ever wonder why there are so many of these types of publications? Because, in general, people loved to be shocked. We kind of love those jaw dropping moments when we can say, “Shut up! You’ve got to be kidding me!” Then we draw in a breath and our eyes just about pop out of our heads. I admit it; I’ve heard information and made instant judgements about the people involved without checking out the source. It’s not something I’m proud of.
Have you ever been the victim of unseemly gossip or the main character in a story that is far from true? I have. It hurts doesn’t it? It hurts deeply if people you love are repeating those stories.
Not all stories are gossip though. Sometimes people misinterpret what they’ve heard. We all have filters made up of past experiences through which we run information. Sometimes, when we take what we hear and run it through our filters we wind up with 2+2=5. But, we may not know that our conclusions are faulty if we don’t ask further questions to gain clarity and understanding or seek out the truth from other sources.
Case in point; very recently two people were having a conversation about my husband. It went something like this:
Speaker said: “I tell you, Ken bleeds Standing Stone.”
The intention was to tell the listener that if you cut Ken, he is so dedicated to the ministry of Standing Stone that instead of blood he would bleed Standing Stone.
Listener heard: “Ken is bleeding Standing Stone.” (as in dry; using ministry funds and resources in a less than honorable way).
Fortunately this story had a happy ending where all parties involved discovered the truth of the misunderstanding, had a good laugh about it, and my husband’s name wasn’t tarnished.
Not all stories have a happy ending though. Someone can absolutely be an innocent party and yet, because false accusations were made or gossip or hearsay got out of control, and even though the innocent person was exonerated, the mud stuck.
Do you think the church is an exception when it comes to gossip, hearsay, and outrageous or scandalous talk? I wish I could give you a resounding “YES!”, but that is not the case. Not by a long shot, which is so unfortunate I want to cry.
Here’s the challenge. If you ever hear anyone say something about your pastor, a member of your pastoral staff, one of the pastors’ spouses, or one of the pastors’ children that makes your jaw drop and your eyes get wide, STOP. Withhold judgement. Ask questions to gain clarity and understanding. Find out how close the person sharing the information is to the source of the story (first person, secondhand, they heard it from the neighbor’s plumber’s cousin). Track down the truth or as close to the truth as you can get. And, most importantly, refrain from sharing that information with anyone else, even if you believe it is true! Instead go to another pastor in your church, an elder, deacon, board member, or somebody in a position of leadership and share what you’ve learned in confidence. When brought to the attention of leadership they can track down and deal with a falsehood or they will be made aware of an existing problem that needs to be dealt with. Either way it minimizes gossip, brings health to the Body, and averts further damage.