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.”

Life Takes a Village

People say it takes a village to raise a child, but our society doesn’t seem to work that way. Don’t get me wrong, we support each other in little ways, but there also seems to be another side. Over my nearly nine years of parenting I’ve noticed a lot of comparison and competition. Under the surface though I see something else entirely. Beneath it all I hear, “I don’t have a village, so neither should you”.

I’ve heard it disguised in conversations more times than I can count, and it makes me sad. I know that I often want and need a village. Maybe you didn’t have one, or maybe at this moment you’re all on your own, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do our very best to be a village for each other now.

In Luke 6:31 Jesus says, “Do to others as you would have them do to you” (NIV). When I think of this verse I think of a village. I know I could really use one. See a village isn’t just for the child, it’s for the physical, emotional, and spiritual health of each of us. So maybe it should be, “Life takes a village”. It takes a community of support and care. It takes people reaching out to each other to encourage them and walk with them through their darkest days.

The enemy wants us to live for ourselves, and try to do life alone. He lies to us and says, “Life is a competition. Show no weakness. You can do it on your own. Better yet, show them you can do it even better!” I’ve fallen for it before. Trying to paint a picture of the mom of four who makes it look easy. I’ve tried to earn my status in life by powering through, because that’s how it’s done. Truth be told though, on the inside I was drowning. I was trying to prove I could do it on my own, but really I was dying for a helping hand, and yet I felt so ashamed for it.

As I’ve listened to these conversations around me, touting independence and strength, I can’t help but wonder how many people are just playing the game too? How many are like me? Playing a role, and yet wishing someone would see through the act? Somehow over the years independence has become the definition of strength. Like the holy grail of life achievements is proving you can do it by yourself. Sometimes though, I can’t help but wonder if true strength is in admitting you are weak and you can’t do it on your own. Maybe strength is actually found in seeking community, for wisdom, encouragement, and support for when it’s too difficult to stand on your own two feet.

If you were treated how you wanted to be treated would you have a village? What would it look like?

I’d like to build a village. Not just to raise my kids, but to raise me up in hard times. I’d like to build a village where I can do the same for my people. I’d like to build a village where we don’t have to pretend like we know what we’re doing or we have it under control. Beyond that I’d like to go further, because talk is easy, I want to build a village where we go the extra step, to give each other just what we’ve needed to get through those tough days or weeks or years.

I’m no expert, but I’m pretty sure that’s what Jesus had in mind all along. The problem is the enemy tells us we can’t do it. We’ve got too much of our own to add in the needs of other people. He tells us that this world is everyone for themselves, but I’m tired of living that way.

So let’s drop the lone wolf act; leaving our comparison, competitions, and pride in independence behind. We can build a village, and together we can raise each other up!

Self Control for the Cranky Mom

This past Sunday was church AND our family photo shoot. Now maybe for you that would be fine, but for me it was a recipe for disaster. See we’ve got four kids and are church planters. That means every Sunday is crazy! Get up, get everyone somewhat presentable, try and maintain peace in the chaos, get out the door, set up, do church, manage a small child’s tantrum and/or tears, and finally tear everything down. Every Sunday it’s pretty much the same, and we handle it pretty well, but throw in family picture day, and for me, it was a lot!

I knew I would be a little stressed, but when I got up that morning I woke up cranky, and it was all downhill from there.

For starters I was awoken from my sweet slumber by my son losing his mind and yelling, “Mom! Mom! MOM!!!!”, all for me to get him his cereal. Ugh! Not the way I wanted to start my day. What followed was a series of whiny moments from my kids and and a general defiance to anything that required cooperation.

I would like to say that I was calm and composed, but you know by now that would be a lie. I was just plain cranky! My poor husband had to listen to me rant and freak out while I tried to wrangle our kids and get us ready for the day. Thankfully he was patient, kind, and self controlled, all things that I lacked.

I remember singing songs about the fruit of spirit as a kid. In Galatians 5:23 it says, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control.” I gotta say, sometimes I find it to be really challenging to have self control as a mom. See sometimes motherhood is great, the kids are listening, they’re getting along, and things are just peachy! Then there are those other days. The ones where it feels like your working a bad customer service job. Seriously! It’s tough and sometimes I can feel like I’m on the cusp of losing my sanity!

So what I’m wondering is, how do you as a mom or just a human being have self control? I’d be a hypocrite if I said I have it figured out. When it comes to self control (as with many things) I fall into the “work in progress” category. I see my freak outs and ongoing issues with patience and all that, I even have some ideas on how to deal with it, but I really have to lean on Jesus and others to hold me accountable and help me out.

That morning as I was prepping things ready for church, I felt Gods gentle whisper, “They’re just pictures Sarah. They’re just pictures”. It was kinda ironic really. Here I am writing week after week about accepting yourself and living in reality, and I was literally going nuts over everyone looking perfect for this staged shoot. Yikes!

I’m so grateful though for grace, and a God who loves me enough to gently remind me of what’s important and adjust my perspective. Throw in a little wisdom from my husband and it helped me to process everything that was going on and try not to lose my poop.

I can’t say it was an instant fix for my mood and snappy self, but it did help. Sometimes I just need a little perspective to get out of my head. Maybe you do too. When all else fails, I recommend an extended trip to the bathroom to calm down. Bonus points if you can be stealth and disappear unnoticed.

At the end of the day, I was able to settle down and mostly roll with the punches. The pictures turned out great, and all was well with the world. Hopefully these photos will stand as a reminder to myself to calm down, because everything’s gonna be okay, even when its all seems a little too crazy!

Photo Credit: Lindsay Berringer Photography