• Our hope-filled future is bound up in sharing the story of Jesus, in discipling others, in bringing those disciples together into communities of believers, and in developing and releasing those believers to create other communities... till Jesus the King comes again!

Call it for what it is

If we found ourselves dealing with a conflict between several disciples that we were working with, we would quickly move to get those disciples into the same room so that they could listen to one another.  We would not tolerate them ‘talking behind one another’s back’.  We would not let them walk away from each other without having addressed the issue that was creating the conflict between them.

In the book, Crucial Conversations, the authors provide numerous helpful guidelines to creating a context of trust and shared pool of knowledge for people to be able to share what may be burdening their hearts and causing relational conflict.gossip_1900288b

I sometimes observe another strategy, used by us workers, when the conflict involves us.  Another worker creates relational tension, which I perceive as a conflict, and then I choose to share my disappointment or frustration with a different worker, rather than the person concerned.  It always sounds innocent because ‘I’m looking for someone to help me process’ or because ‘I don’t feel like that person hears me’. 

It may also sound spiritual, but we need from time to time to call it for what it is: gossip.  Gossip is when “a person who has privileged information about people and proceeds to reveal that information to those who have no business knowing it.”  It is actually a form of self-justification as we seek to make another appear to be at fault by sharing their ‘faults’ with others.

Paul describes the damages that can be caused by this strategy: “For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”  But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another.”  (Galatians 5:14-15)

The way to address this wrong strategy is twofold.  First, drive deep into our hearts the truth that grace creates or brings forth effort.  The more we appropriate the love and acceptance we have in Jesus, the more willing we will be to go to the person with whom we are in conflict.  Second, take a neutral person with you for such a conversation.  Such a person can help you ‘hear’ the other person well and can serve to remind you of the Gospel at each moment in the conversation.

5 Responses

  1. I think that gossip is a dangerous toxin in our social environment in church and mission contexts. As a participant in a conversation (whether as a contributor or listener) I must take responsibility.I am learning to ask myself if what I am saying is true, honourable and constructive–that is, does it enhance or build the listener; does it impart grace. And I must be courageous to correct untruth, to question assumptions, and cut the chain of gossip. This may entail rebuking people I love and respect, and risk my own reputation for the sake of the person who is the target of the gossip. I don’t say this self-righteously. I have too often been a conscious participant. But if we are learning and growing disciples who seek to disciple others, this is how we must behave.

    • I agree that it takes courage which I lacked in working on a conflict between two team members. Both were declaring me to be on their side. I thought I was being a peace maker by avoiding conflict but later discovered I was simply being a people pleaser. God led me to repentance and as I grew in God-pleasing, my courage also grew in being able to enter conflict with its risk of rejection. Pleasing God gave me freedom to displease people.

  2. Toxic is a good word describe the pain and problems that gossip causes. I keep reflecting on how the Gospel addresses gossip and what ways it would free us from its power.

  3. I appreciate your two fold strategy: connect deeply with the grace and love of God and then take a neutral person with you. Sometimes its hard to find a neutral person who is also spiritually mature. Perhaps even a newer Christian can be discipled by praying with them in advance and asking for their help in perspective and prayer.

    This is the hard part of community but has high potential for developing godly maturity.

  4. I have been having numerous discussions with people recently where the issue of a neutral party in a difficult conversation is missing. Stemming gossip and growing in self awarenss come from having another person in the conversation who can give the feedback we need.

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