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The Golden Rule Defeats Gossip with Love
The Golden Rule -- “Treat others the way you would want to be treated” – and Jesus’ second commandment -- “Love your neighbor as yourself” -- are rules I’ve heard since I first started kindergarten. But there have been times when I have had to remind myself to follow them the way Jesus would. There was one situation, in particular, when gossip made me forget about these rules of love.
Gossip is something we all know and encounter every day. The dictionary definition of gossip is “idle talk or rumor, especially about the personal or private affairs of others.” It’s bad. So the question is, “Why do we do it?”
The situations may be different, but I think the main reasons for gossiping are to get attention, to get rid of boredom you’re feeling, or to get back at someone for doing something to you. There seem to be two different types of gossip “crimes.” One is starting the gossip, and the other is receiving it. By taking in the gossip, you’re allowing yourself to accept something that’s false about a person’s true identity.
About three years ago in sixth grade, I was on a competitive cheerleading team. There were twelve girls on the team, including me. I knew all of them well, except for one girl who was really quiet. I later found out that her mom had signed her up for cheer so that she could make more friends. I didn’t want to talk to her because she seemed like she didn’t want to talk to anyone. She would always sit by herself and remain silent for the whole practice.
One day before practice was about to start, one of the other girls started talking about her. “She’s such a freak, and she’s so annoying,” this girl said. “Every time we do our routine, she does the wrong move and messes me up. I wonder if she’s really retarded.”
Another girl joined in. “Oh, I know! I don’t even know why she’s on the team in the first place. She’s not good enough, and she acts like a total snob, always ignoring us.”
I had never really thought about her being a snob. I always thought she was just shy. Immediately, though, I started to make false accusations about the girl. What a snob. She’s such a loner. Freak. I kept these thoughts in my head about this girl for half of the year. I even told some of my friends outside of cheer about this weird, snobby girl, even though I didn’t really know her. Everyone said these things about her so they must be true, I told myself.
Then one day after practice, I was sitting outside the gym waiting for my mom to pick me up. The only other person there was the girl. I kept my distance from her. After awhile, she started walking towards me and sat beside me. She kept her head down.
“Hi,” she muttered quietly.
I said, “Hi” back, but I didn’t look at her.
“Good job today during practice. Your basket toss was really good.” I had just learned how to do a toe touch basket toss that day. I was shocked. Was she being friendly to me?
I looked at her and smiled. “Thanks. You did a good job, too.”
She smiled back. “Really? Thanks. Well, I’ll see you tomorrow. My Mom’s here. Bye,” she said, waving.
Later that year we became friends. I discovered she was just a little shy and needed someone to come along and be a friend to her. Although some of my “so-called” friends didn’t approve of her, most of the girls on my team made friends with her, too. All the rumors disappeared.
This experience really stood out to me because it taught me that you can’t rely on what other people say to be true. You have to discover the truth for yourself.
In Luke, there’s a story that deals with people’s views of others. A woman who “was a sinner” came into Simon the Pharisee’s house, where Jesus was invited for dinner, and washed Jesus’ feet and “wipe[d] them with the hairs of her head” (Luke 7:37,38 KJV). Simon looked down on this woman and thought poorly of her. But Jesus looked past the woman’s appearance, saw her true identity, and showed compassion toward her. Jesus even rebuked Simon, pointed out how much she was doing for him in comparison to how little Simon had done for him, recognized her repentance and love, and explained her reward -- forgiveness and a new life.
So the next time we are faced with gossip, we don’t just have to avoid it and walk away. That won’t solve anything. Instead, we can ask ourselves what Jesus would do. We can follow Jesus’ example and his teachings – the Golden Rule and his second commandment. We can look past the stereotypes, the judgments, and the rumors. We can see those as unrealities or lies about people and we can discern the reality of the situation and the individuals God made.