Friday, June 3, 2011

Weeding the Gossip from Our Lives




I have several beautiful flowerbeds that encompass my house and the perimeter of my yard. Every spring it takes many hours of hard work to get these flowerbeds looking like something other than a weed patch.

When my husband and I moved into our home, I began cultivating and developing my flowerbeds with beautiful perennial plants. Each year, I’d spend a little money and buy a few more perennials. I did this so that I wouldn’t have to spend money every year on the pretty annuals that only lasted for one season. But I learned that I needed to take extra care with perennials so that I wouldn’t uproot the returning plant in the spring. During my weeding frenzy, I have to take care to note where my hostas will be returning or the delicate bleeding hearts, so that I don’t pull those beautiful plants out with a handful of crab grass.

Gossip is like a weed. With just a few words, we have the power to choke and bind a beautiful plant if left unchecked. When we engage in gossip with others, we are carefully layering their beautiful spirit with shadows of tall weeds, some complete with ugly thorns. Sometimes gossip is so damaging that it precedes the actual meeting of the person. Instead of forming our own opinion about a person we don’t know, we listen to hateful gossip about them and miss opportunities for friendship and love.

When I first began clearing out my flower beds, it was full of weeds that had a pretty white flower on them. At first I was confused—was it really a weed—should I pull it? After careful inspection, I discovered the true identity of the plant. It was a weed disguising itself as a flower.

When we gossip about another person’s faults, we’re often taking on the role of judge. A thought to remember is that the Atonement is for everyone, anytime. Even if a person makes a grave mistake, they can seek forgiveness and repent of their sins. “Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow;” (Isaiah 1:18) Christ gave us this beautiful gift of the atonement so that through repentance it could be as if we had never sinned. When we gossip about another’s sins, we could be impeding their progress along the road to forgiveness by making it so that they, and no one else, can ever forget their mistake.

I’m not the world’s best gardener and I’m also not perfect when it comes to avoiding gossip. It is a nasty trap, like the sneaky morning glory that often curls around my rosebushes and entwines itself so tightly that I break a sweat just trying to remove the deceptive, purple blossomed weed.

What do you do when you’re in the company of a gossip? This is a touchy subject because we don’t want to offend. It’s difficult for me because I usually fall into the trap of gossiping with and about my family members. Others have a difficult time avoiding gossiping about their coworkers or friends. We don’t want to ruin relationships, but we do need to take a stand against gossip.

  • The best advice is to change the subject quickly. This might not always work, but it’s worth a try. Conversations usually move rapidly enough that your subject change won’t even be noticed. Think of something beforehand that you would like to discuss instead of gossip, then when the backbiting or murmuring starts, bring up your subject and change the direction of the conversation.

  • Shut down your curiosity—don’t give in when the gossipmonger teases you with a bit of juicy gossip. Think of a phrase that empowers you to avoid gossip without offending the other person. You could say, “Hmm, what I really wanted to talk to you about today was…”

  • Be tactful. Say, “Since we weren’t there, we don’t know all the details and I don’t think it’s important enough to speculate.” OR “Is it okay if we talk about something else? I’m really not comfortable talking about this.”

  • Bring in a third party who can support you in your conversations and keep them steered away from gossip.

  • Try to think about how our Savior sees the person you are discussing. What does He see? What would He do?

  • If these tactics don’t work, you may have to avoid that person who brings out the worst in your conversations.

After several hours of pulling weeds in the spring, my flowerbeds look clean, bright and beautiful. But my work isn’t finished. Weeds will continue to creep in and if I don’t spend time every day watering and weeding; my flowerbeds will be completely overcome by weeds again.

It is the same with gossip. We can make some big changes in the way we converse, but weeds of gossip will still try to enter our conversations. We must make a commitment to think of ways to be kinder and show more love and compassion in our everyday conversations to eliminate the weeds of gossip.

What do you think? Do you have a difficult time with gossip? What helps you to avoid the gossip trap?

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