Monday, October 8, 2012

Monday's Resolution {Speak No Evil}

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We are picking apart Jonathan Edward's 70 Resolutions, one week and one resolution at a time. Don't forget to start where he did- "Being sensible that I am unable to do anything without God's help, I do humbly entreat Him by His grace to enable me to keep these Resolutions, so far as they are agreeable to His will, for Christ's sake."

16. Resolved, never to speak evil of anyone, so that it shall tend to his dishonor, more or less, upon no account except for some real good.

My paraphrase:

16. Resolved, never to speak badly about anyone, never to paint someone's reputation in an ugly light, unless if it is absolutely necessary and absolutely true. 

Several years ago I read an interesting book about two girls involved in a fatal car accident. One was killed instantly, and the other badly injured. Due to their matching blonde hair, a mix up of purses in the collision, and bad mangling from the accident, their identities were confused.

One family was told that their daughter had died- they had a funeral, buried her, and began their grieving process. The other family was told that their daughter was in critical condition- they rushed to her side, kept a 24 hour bedside vigil, and helped her start on the long road to recovery.

Weeks passed- and one day they found out that there had been a grave mistake. "Laura" was asked to say her name. She said that her name was Whitney.

The book was written by both families, sharing how God worked through this crazy mix-up, and how they had coped. This remarkable story was a compelling and memorable read for many reasons. As the life of Laura Van Ryn (the girl who had actually died) was detailed for me, one thing in particular stood out.

According to the testimony of a close friend, Laura never said anything bad about anybody.

The thought stuck in my mind and began to churn. Would my friends be able to say the same about me?

Memories came back, snippets of gossip here, huge venting sessions there. While I may not spread tales abroad, my husband sure has heard a lot of what so-and-so had the audacity to say to me, and what you-know-who has gone and done again.

Have you ever had your view of a person colored by what somebody else said about them?

I have it on a good source that Person A has a history of lying and manipulating. Therefore, in all of my future contact with A, I judge, misread, and am suspicious of A's every word and action. The fresh slate A would have had with me has been marked and broken by my "good source's" opinion of them.

Maybe what I heard was true... but what if it wasn't?

My resolution, and Jonathan Edwards' 16th Resolution, is to never speak evil of anyone. To refuse to destroy the reputation of one in the eye's of another. To flee the poisonous temptation of gossip and to honor those I speak to and about.

Evil speech is destructive. Mud slinging leaves many dirty hands and faces, and nobody clean. The one who gossips has a dirty mouth, the one who hears has dirty ears, and the one discussed a dirty reputation. From start to finish, it is an ugly business.

The exception? According to Edwards, "upon no account except for some real good." Real good is not calling up your best friend to share a "prayer request" about so-and-so.

Real good is calling the police when a child reports that an adult has abused them (how many organizations today, "Christian" and otherwise, have tried instead to brush it under the rug?). Real good is warning a friend about forming too close of a relationship with an untrustworthy significant other.

Real good requires a whole lot of discernment. Real good is slow to speak, prays for wisdom, and proceeds only with much grace and gentleness. Real good does not delight in sharing bad news, but acts under the compulsion of necessity. Real good is motivated by love for God and neighbor.

When we reflect on what is real good reason for speaking evil of another, would most of our evil speech pass the test?

Resolution #16 is a reminder (I confess) that I will be needing again and again.

How about you- what factors do you use to determine if you ought to say something or not? What helps you in the fight against temptation to gossip? 

Linked With: Growing Home.

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