Fear is the root of many problems including gossip and favoritism which are forms of judging.
Someone upset me, but I wasn’t clear what exactly the issue of conflict was. As I thought about it, James 2 came to mind. James 2 encourages us to not show favoritism and to always show mercy. Favoritism is a form of judgment. Mercy always triumphs over judgment.
How was favoritism involved? It became clear that the issue was gossip, something I want to stay away from because gossip leads to slander. There are always two sides of a story and only those directly involved can provide the two sides of the story, not anyone else. Slander is uttering falsehoods that damage the reputation of another. Perhaps the one gossiping intends no malice (desire to harm someone else), but that is the end product. These all include hypocrisy also since the one gossiping is pretending to be something she isn’t—above making the same mistake.
In James 3, it tells us that our tongues are corrupt and can set our course on fire. Watch your tongue because it is a restless evil, set on fire by hell, full of deadly poison.
Now, we can be visiting with people and talk can turn this way so the best thing to do is change the conversation or politely say this isn’t something to be discussed. But how do we get to these types of conversations? I believe it has something to do with fear.
Sometimes when people fear something, they talk about it or compare. Comparing is a dangerous trap because no one wins. We should never compare, but we do. When we find ourselves comparing, we need to train ourselves to stop such thoughts. I think comparing may have something to do with gossip because people want to feel they have a better handle on things. That is a slippery slope, for sure.
What are some ways people deal with fear? Some spend lots of money at the doctor’s office. Others escape through working long hours or through keeping an extreme exercise routine. Others escape through drugs or alcohol. Some fear change and stay in the same house, community, job, or routine. The sameness offers desired stability. We’ve all seen movies with a character who is afraid of germs and won’t leave the house. That’s an extreme, but it happens.
That day, I was dealing with a fearful person who seemed a busybody talking about others. I didn’t react lovingly because I didn’t want to get dragged into that type of conversation. How could I respond better? Perhaps by addressing the fear and directing the person toward mercy and grace.
God hasn’t given us a spirit of fear. He gave us a spirit of courage to do the right thing and to love others in their weaknesses, troubles, and failures. We want the same mercy and grace and love. So when we open our mouths, may we pray first that what comes out will be uplifting and kind and beneficial for all who listen?
I’m not there yet, but I want to always honor others, and that is a start. May God give us the words to speak in a firm yet loving way the next time we must confront our adversaries—gossip and fear.
Image created by Kaitlyn Welsh.