The tongue trap

girls_whispering[1]Let’s talk about talking. First, some observations: One, girls generally enjoy it. I know this firsthand. Two, words are important. They shape us, challenge us, inspire us. Three, we sometimes say more than we should. Hurtful things, even. Maybe we’re bored. Perhaps we want more attention, more popularity, more relevance. But more can get us in trouble. Maybe it’s time for less.

I learned the value of less during high school. A rumor—one of those juicy ones—was spreading about Jane. For me, a pretty sheltered teen, hearing details gave me scrumptious scoop about sin life. It also kept me in the cafeteria-chat loop. Besides, the more I knew, the more I could pray for her, right? (A conversation beginning with “pray for so-and-so who is doing the following things” can be dangerous, ladies. Careful on this one.)

Then one day Jane asked me for advice. Yes, me, the one who listened to the gossip and, I’m sure, weighed in as well. Why me? Because she assumed I’d rise above the rumors. She knew I walked with Jesus, and Jesus girls are (supposedly) different. “I trust you,” Jane said. “And I need you to pray for me.”

Oh, Jane. Oh, that I’d listened to others less and to my Savior more. Oh, that I’d backed away from the scoop, that I’d been less self-involved and more compassionate. Like my Jesus.

Decades later, I still occasionally hear women saying more than they should. Hurtful things. Sadly, tongues don’t stop wagging just because we’re older. But thankfully, God has changed me over the years and has shown me how to avoid the Tongue Trap:

  1. Speak up when conversations go south. No need to be mean or confrontational. Just be honest: “I’d sure hate for someone to talk about me like this, so can we change the subject?”
  2. Pray for a person the same amount of time she’s brought up in conversation. This technique is rewarding in many ways, let me tell you.
  3. Offer fewer details to acquaintances about my own shortcomings. Not everyone needs to know all the specifics, and it reduces potential gossip about me.
  4. Find the joy in drama-free conversations. Backing away from scoop means living without the craziness of everyone’s business. Oddly enough, this reduces my own stress and makes me more thankful.
  5. Study and implement God’s wisdom about the tongue. The books of Proverbs and James are great starting places. Bottom line: Talk less, listen lovingly, and make sure God is glorified in whatever I say.

Let’s take care of each other, Jesus girls. Less harmful chatter, okay? And more kindness to others? Somebody’s heart depends on it.

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