What’s the Gossip?

I’ve got to confess something, I struggle with gossip. I’m not sure when it all started, but somewhere along the way the line between healthy and toxic conversation got blurred. As I started to notice this about myself I realized a few things. Gossip grows bitterness, anger, and pride, none of which are beneficial.

There have been times in my life when I have needed support. I’ve needed a friend and that’s okay. I don’t have to do life alone. I can share my pain, grieve, and work through my circumstances gleaning advice.

With the right person, this can be fruitful. I have friends who have offered me so much wisdom and perspective. That’s great! The thing is, a good friend won’t let you live in your hurt and pain. See bitterness grows when we stay there. When our lives become one big long rant our perspective becomes narrow. We can’t see past ourselves, so no matter the situation we’re in we are always the victim. Even if we are the victim, gossip keep us from working through it. It traps us in self pity and makes it impossible to move on, forgive, and extend grace.

Not too long ago, I was ranting to my husband about someone who hurt me and he said, “You can’t just talk bad about someone to make yourself feel better.” His words hit me hard. He was right! I’d felt slighted and belittled and I wasn’t just hurt, I was angry! The words said to me by this person made me feel small, so in return I was picking them apart. Who am I to do that? What does that even achieve?

Over the years as I’ve wrestled with this, I’ve wondered where the line is. I’ve heard it said, that it’s not gossip if it’s true, but I’m not sure it’s that simple. Like I said, we are all entitled to a little support, but just how big is your circle? Do they challenge you? Or are they always on your side? Why are you telling the story? Is it even your story to tell?

I’m proud to say that though I sometimes gossip, I am a good secret keeper. Confidentiality is important and I respect that. Yet I’ll admit I’ve found myself participating in conversations I have no business being in. It’s an easy trap to fall into. How many times have you been in a room when somebody told you the latest news in somebody’s life and you just sat there and listened or chatted away with your opinion. It kinda feels good doesn’t it? Except when you feel the little twinge that somethings off. That maybe the “latest” wasn’t for your ears. Or even worse that awful feeling that it’s wrong. That you wouldn’t want someone else to be discussing all of your business, so maybe you shouldn’t be discussing theirs.

It takes intention to avoid gossip these days, discomfort even. The fact is it’s become such a natural part of so many conversations that it’s almost awkward to avoid it. As I recognize this struggle of mine I’m learning just how big a part of life it is. In fact avoiding it has meant being far less chatty with certain people than I was before. As a talker, the default is to discuss everything and anything. The thing is conversation can easily become a dangerous rabbit hole, and its not healthy. Avoiding it isn’t a simple task either. It might mean changing the conversation or boldly calling it out. It’s incredibly uncomfortable and I certainly haven’t figured it all out, but I’m working on it because it’s necessary.

In Proverbs 27:19 it says, “As water reflects the face, so one’s life reflects the heart.” I want a life reflects the heart of God and if I say that my speech needs to be loving, peaceful, compassionate, and controlled. I’m not there yet, but I’m glad that I have God to guide me along the way.

I will no doubt have to continue to remove myself from certain discussions, but I can’t wait to see what fruitful conversations open up along the way. If I want my reflection to be one that shows the heart of God, my words must honour not just Him but those around me. If I believe in God’s grace and love, my speech needs to reflect it. I need to be an advocate for people instead of adversary.

As with any struggle, the first step towards change is admitting you have a problem. Assess yourself. Think about the things you discuss, and evaluate. Are you constantly venting about how somebody wronged you? Do you find yourself chatting about other peoples business? If so join me in the decision to intentionally avoid gossip. Lets be careful with our words, and the conversations we find ourselves in. If by chance you struggle with what that looks like, follow the sage advice of moms everywhere and, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.”

God Help Me See the Joy

I was at a boiling point. The kids had been sick for days and I was up every night worrying and tending to fevers. They were finally on the mend, but I hadn’t recovered from my exhaustion and my house was a literal disaster with laundry overload, dish laden counters, and toys everywhere. A week of sickness had left the housework neglected and everyone tightly wound. I wasn’t coping well.

It’s not that I was actually losing it on anyone, it’s just that I felt like a ticking time bomb. Every whine was making me twitch, and I was becoming increasingly agitated and overwhelmed as I looked at the mess around me. Generally I default to ranting, but it’s not something I’m proud of, so I mustered all of my strength to try and not verbalize my growing list of grievances.

I felt like I needed a pause button, but that doesn’t really exist when it comes to life does it?

Some people call vacations a pause button, but my bank account didn’t allow for one, and even if it did, I needed to pause right that minute!

I was trying so hard to keep it together, because I didn’t want to lose it on my kids or my husband. I’ve been the angry ranting mom before, and I’ve always regretted my soapbox speech after I stepped down.

My kids have had moments when they’ve gotten frustrated and they just boil over and freak out. Each time I’ve said to them, “Your emotions are okay. It’s okay to be frustrated and angry, but you’re still responsible for how you deal with them. So you need to calm down.”

I wonder though, how am I supposed to teach them to calm down and control their emotions if I can barely do it myself?

The other day I skimmed an article about the voice in your head, and I realized that mine is often negative. Not all the time obviously, but more often than I’d like to admit my inner voice is anxious, angry, and self righteous. No wonder I feel the need for a pause button so often! In 2 Corinthians 10:5 it says, “We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” See I know that at the root of it I need to work on self control, but I can’t do it on my own. Self control takes surrender. It takes me giving over my negative mindset to God and saying, “Here! Take it God. Help me to see things in a new way. Show me the joy that I’m struggling to see!”

The truth is I’ve got a lot to be thankful for, but on days like this, I’ve had a hard time seeing it. This stage of my life is often so chaotic, and somedays it’s hard to see all the joy in the midst of it. So I’m starting something new. When my inner narrative becomes sour, when I feel like a kettle ready to blow, I’m going to take my thoughts captive. I’m surrendering my soapbox to Christ and asking for a fresh perspective in return. I must, because I know there is joy in every story, but so often I struggle to see it on my own.

Slowly, God is teaching me to see all of my blessings. I’m tired, but it’s because I’m blessed with four amazing kids to keep me up at night. My living room may be strewn with toys, but it’s also filled with laughter. And though my counters are a mess of plates, cups, and bowls, it’s because I have plenty of food to dirty my dishes. In the grand scheme of things, I’m living the good life!

It’s not gonna be easy changing my thought process. I’ve developed a bad habit of dwelling in negativity and self pity, but I know surrendering my thoughts to God is the only answer.

Sure a vacation sounds dreamy, but a pause on life isn’t what I truly need at the core. An escape is a temporary fix, and sure I would love some rest and relaxation, but what I truly need is a change of perspective that only God can give me.

I guess I’m not looking for a pause after all. Instead I’m asking God to hit the reset button for my mind, so I don’t have to check out, but can check in with a new mindset. I want to see my life for all it’s beauty and spend my days soaking it in instead of grumbling as it passes me by.

Awe and Wonder

Today I will wake up to awe and wonder. To squeals of joy as my son opens the car track he’s been hinting at for months. There will be a lot of “WHOA!”, and “I always wanted a _______”, and “Thank you!!!”. I have spent the last couple of months carefully selecting special gifts in anticipation of this moment, and I will soak it all in.

I love these special Christmas mornings, but I confess I often get lost in all the giving and receiving. The morning exchange is only a small fraction of the awe and wonder of Christmas. There is so much more!

This year I’ve been trying to refocus. Trying to take time and really meditate on the true meaning of Christmas. John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” I know that’s not your typical Christmas verse, but in my opinion it sums up the basics of the true meaning of Christmas. As I read it, a new perspective stood out. He GAVE His one and only son, not only did He give Him, He lived as one of us. THIS IS A BIG DEAL!

Have you ever been going through a tough time and felt like nobody understood you? Friends would try and offer their support, but you knew they didn’t understand. How could they? They’ve never been through what your going through! Not Jesus! He gets it!

Lost a loved one? So did Jesus. Scared? Terrified? Jesus has been there. Being bullied? Jesus knows exactly what that’s like. I could go on and on, but you get the point.

Jesus gets you! He understands, because God loves you so much that He sent His one and only son to be born in a manger on that special day that would change history.

Christmas is about so much more than our gift giving on Christmas morning. It’s about celebrating the birth of God’s son. A man who lived as one of us, and loves us. A man who understands us and has compassion for us. A man whose life represents hope for each one of us.

So today I’m filled with awe and wonder, because He lives!

Grace in Progress

This past week I was preparing to run kids church, and I was mulling over ideas for Thanksgiving when an illustration came to mind. Picture life as a pair of glasses. Glasses that are shiny and new, but eventually get dirty and scratched. Before you know it, it’s hard to see. That’s what life is like. Life gets tough, and sometimes bitterness becomes our lens, but when we choose to be thankful to God through the pain, our vision becomes clearer, and we begin to see. Our perspective becomes positive because we choose to focus on the good.

As I was going to bed I was thinking about my lens. With some people, my glasses are filthy. I’ve been hurt, and I find it hard to forgive. I would say I’ve tried, but the truth is I really haven’t. If I had, I wouldn’t filter through my pain. If I had, I wouldn’t choose bitterness instead of hope and joy. As I rested my head on my pillow, God said, “That’s you.” I’m Sarah with the dirty glasses. Sarah who refuses to be thankful and see the good, because bitterness and anger is familiar. The scratches and the dirt on my glasses are easy to see through. Or so it seems.

God wants me – He wants us, to let go. To choose to be thankful in the little things and have hope. He wants us to give over our dirty lenses and let God wipe them clean. It’s not easy, that dirt feels safe to me, a cautionary tale to keep certain people at bay. “They haven’t changed”, I say, “They never will.” I convince myself that my filter is necessary, that it protects me, but if I believe in a God who loves me despite my dirt and sees the best in me in my worst of times, I must be willing to let God clear my vision for others. I must surrender my pain in return for joy, and I think He’s trying to tell me that as I do, I’ll have so much more to be thankful for.

I can’t do this in my own strength, grace doesn’t always feel natural to me, but as I surrender myself to God, He will show me how to love unconditionally. His grace will help me see the good in people and have compassion for them on their darkest days. Through Him I can overcome my pain and choose to love. That means the people who have hurt me and haven’t even noticed. It means extending grace to those who haven’t apologized or don’t feel the need to.

As comfortable as I have become in my bitterness, I want to surrender my pain to Christ. I don’t like who I am when I filter through my pain. I am cold and distant. I am closed off to progress and growth, because I am stuck clinging to the dirt in the past. What a horrible way to live. I know that God has called me to more, and if you can relate He wants so much more for you too. A life of unconditional love and hope for change. A new lens and a joyful outlook on life. I know it will take time for me, but as the Bible says in Luke, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”, so I’ve got some work to do. I’m so glad that I serve a God who calls me to a higher standard, not just for the sake of it, but because it’s whats best for me. He knows my bitterness is like a weed that comes in and chokes out love and peace, and He loves me enough to call me out of that. So, here I am surrendering myself, and asking for a new lens, strength to see past my pain, and grace to extend when it hurts.