He who covers over an offense promotes love, but whoever repeats the matter separates close friends.
You probably haven’t heard these terms since you were a kid: blabbermouth, tattletale, snitch. Remember when you did something wrong there was always a playmate who would yell, “I’m gonna tell!” (Maybe you were that kid.)
Some of those children grow up to become rumormongers and gossipers. They delight in being the first to get the dirt on old so-and-so. Quite simply, these are individuals who have never learned or chosen to keep their mouth shut.
What causes this behavior? Why would anybody think it necessary to air the neighborhood’s dirty laundry? Most likely these individuals need to engage in this kind of behavior because it somehow boosts their self-esteem. By pointing to the mistakes and failures of others it makes them feel better about themselves. Sometimes such conduct is about venting or relieving frustration. Other times it has to do with retaliation, a way of getting back at someone. Unfortunately, for some people “talking trash” is just a form of entertainment. That’s how they get their kicks. They find enjoyment in running others down.
Today’s focus scripture features a proverb that teaches the importance of keeping your mouth shut. “He who covers over an offense promotes love.” One of the important principles about loving one another is that we must learn to withhold intimate information about those close to us. The close proximity of relationships with family and friends will provide us with volumes of information. But, since we are a people of love, we are to keep that information to ourselves.
Now, more than ever, this instruction has great relevance. It’s more than just Aunt Martha and Cousin Bobbie Sue running down Uncle Buck while sitting on the swing on the front porch. At least their dirty laundry could be confined to the porch. But today, we’re equipped with cell phones, texting, chat rooms, and social networking (Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, etc.). In other words there are now more and faster ways for spreading dirt and running people down.
The writer of this proverb is warning us to be careful in what we share about others. Those juicy stories we love to tell on others can actually be very damaging. Again from Proverbs 17:9 we read, “Whoever repeats the matter separates close friends.” All too often relationships are damaged due to our inability to keep the lid on intimate information.
An important guideline in knowing what to tell and what not to tell is to simply consider whether the information builds up or tears down. Does it edify or destroy? If this information was about you would you want your friends sharing it?
In the Christian community there are many among us who love to spread information about others. Sharing prayer requests often turns to gossip sessions. God knows the details. Much of what we share, especially of a personal nature, is best withheld. If we are not careful caring and sharing can grow into meddling and gossiping. In such times we should seek never to share intimate details that would embarrass or humiliate. The “do unto others” principle definitely applies here.
Whatever you share with another will eventually make its rounds. Surely you’ve heard the old expression, “What goes around comes around.” Inevitably, the information you chose to share will eventually get back to the person you were talking about resulting in somebody getting hurt.
We all would do well to learn this lesson. One of the great signs of spiritual maturity is the acquired ability to keep your mouth shut. “If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless.” (James 1:26) Bridling the tongue takes discipline. Just like any other spiritual deficiency, if you have a problem in this area, then it’s going to take a lot of prayer and hard work to fix it.
Let us be more careful in the news that we share about others. If we truly love others then there are some things that are best left unsaid.
Reprinted from The Forever Notebook, Book 1 (January – March) Get your copy here: Paperback and eBook/Kindle formats.