Deal With This Or It Will Deal With You
Strife is part of life – but much of the strife we experience can be minimized. This is especially true if you’re a leader, in any capacity, because leaders have to deal with people, and people have a way of not always agreeing with each other. If you want to reduce the strife in your life, and in the lives of others, there is something you must address head-on, or it will play head games with everyone within earshot. Never – and I mean never – let gossip go unaddressed. If you’re going to ignore gossip, you might as well participate in it.
Proverbs 26:20 speaks about the destructive power of gossip:
“Without wood, fire goes out;
without gossip, conflict dies down.”*
Gossip fuels conflict the way dry, seasoned wood feeds a campfire. Allow it to go unchecked and a small campfire can become a raging wildfire. While none of us can avoid all conflict in life, you are a poor (and foolish) leader if you don’t address the kinds of conflict created by the flames of gossip. Don’t debate the truth of God’s word. Gossip is a serious, destructive sin.
HOW TO PUT WATER ON THE FIRE OF GOSSIP
1. Get your facts straight; don’t make assumptions. Before you assume things, do your research. Find out if your suspicions about potential gossip are justified. If they are, take action. If they aren’t, move on.
2. Be humbly courageous. Make the decision to confront the person/people involved. Remember, if you do nothing when you know gossip has occurred, you are deciding to risk the potential of a small fire becoming a raging inferno. If that happens, even more of your time, energy and resources will be taxed. Small sins, left unaddressed, grow (See James 1:15). The lack of courage is a reason for many leadership wildfires. Pray for courage, then lovingly, patiently and firmly approach the person/people involved.
3. Begin by affirming the person/people. Then, ask questions; avoid making accusations. Let the person/people know you value them and their time, and care about their quality of life and the quality of the lives of others. Let them know the motive for your getting together with them, so they know you love them and people.
After doing this, ask questions about the details you discovered in your research. Allow them time to answer, and be open to the possibility that you may have received incorrect information. However, you must also be ready to confront the sin if your information is correct, and gossip did indeed occur. Good leaders don’t shy away from problems — they address them head-on.
4. If the person/people are sorry, lovingly hold them accountable and help them repent. If someone has gossiped, they need to not only be sorry. They need to make amends. Gossip is a sin with tentacles. Those tentacles need to be lopped off. The way this happens is for the person/people who gossiped to approach those they gossiped to and say, from the heart, “I am guilty of gossip. I sinned. I sinned against God. I sinned against you, others and myself by doing so. I am sorry, would you please forgive me?”
Of course, there can be variants of this, but not significant variants. The core of the confession and repentance must be present: admission of guilt/sin against God and people. Remorse for the sin. Asking for the person/people sinned against for forgiveness. Without these ingredients, the person/people have not dealt with the fire they started. It’s very important that humble repentance is manifest by the gossiper, or else the damage they started will spread. We have God’s word on it. Don’t forget Proverbs 26:20.
5. If the person/people who gossiped are not sorry and won’t take ownership of their sin and repent, follow Matthew 18:15-20. The Bible is God’s handbook for conflict resolution. Follow it. By doing so, you are following God, not just a book. Do the right things in the right ways. This is true when it comes to handling someone who has gossiped. Don’t skip steps and don’t compromise because to obey this process is to obey God.
6. Follow up and make time to thank God, personally, and with the person/people who gossiped. If the people involved repent and follow #4, above, wonderful. You have followed the LORD well, led people well, and they have followed well (especially the LORD). The fire will be doused. Take time to stop everything and thank God for His goodness, and commend the repentant person/people for taking godly steps to correct a godless act.
Yes, there may be consequences for the sin of gossip even after the guilty repent and apologize, but all you can do is all you can do – and great leaders are responsible leaders who don’t shy away from conflict. If you are a leader, you must address conflict and its roots, because without doing so, you aren’t going very far. And, neither are the people God called you to lead.
We have to get to the heart of the matter, and the heart of the matter is the human heart. Each of us needs to participate in The National Week of Repentance, coming October 30 – November 6, the week before the election. You don’t have to travel anywhere to jump in. RevivalMatters.com provides all the information you need to invite the deep change of heart and lifestyle that only God can bring.
*Scripture taken from the Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB).
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