What to Do When You Spend Too Much Time Putting Others Down

One of my least fond memories growing up happened at the dinner table.

My family sat down to eat dinner and began – as usual – with the salad. I took our bag of croutons and poured a few on top my salad, and then my dressing, and began eating. The crouton tasted a little off, but I wasn’t one to complain about the food. I also noticed that each crouton was sort of connected to another by a stringy substance, and I stopped eating, thinking something had to be wrong. I pointed this out to my mom, who said, “that’s weird,” and promptly opened the crouton bag only to find the most awful thing possible – maggots.

Maggots had somehow found their way into our brand new unopened bag of croutons and had begun doing whatever maggots do and creating that webby substance.

Of course, we immediately stopped eating and started gagging. It was disgusting. So disgusting, in fact, that even a few decades later, I’m still scarred and semi-scared of croutons.

You probably haven’t experienced the atrocity that is maggoty croutons, but surely, you’ve experienced rotten food.

It could be rotten fruit, vegetables, or meat, either way, you know what it is, and how absolutely disgusting it is to taste rottenness. It’s awful.

We don’t enjoy eating rottenness because it’s not the way things were supposed to be. Whichever item has rotted is supposed to be something different, and, unfortunately, when something rots, it tends to rot on the inside and then to the outside.

We as humans are similar. When we talk about sin, it can be quite convoluted – quite confusing, but what’s clear is that sin is something that comes from within us, not outside us. It’s something that – though inside us – begins to show itself on the exterior of our person in the form of acts that we call sin.

All of our sin starts inside us and causes external actions. It’s somewhat similar to a poison. These foreign substances affect our insides and cause our actions to be negatively affected as well.

There is one poison that is awfully destructive. Like carbon monoxide, it’s not obvious, and it’s hard to detect.
This poison infects our soul and – in a very negative fashion – affects our relationship with God.

This poison, unlike many others, not only affects our soul but the souls of countless others.

This poison is gossip.

We love to gossip. We revel in talking about other people. It not only makes us feel good about ourselves, we simply love putting others down when they’re not around. It’s a point of conversation; it’s easy, and it’s deadly.

God, however, takes no delight in the verbal assault we launch onto one another.

In fact, he has some pretty harsh things to say about gossip in his word.

In Romans 1: 39-42, the Apostle Paul equates gossips – those who talk negatively of other people – with slandering, God-hating, insolent, arrogant, boastful, people who invent evil, disobey their parents, have no understanding, are unfaithful, unloving, and unmerciful.

Gossip is serious.

It’s dangerous.
It’s deadly.

It’s ungodly.

It’s something that we as Christians ought to fight very strongly against, yet we permit for some odd reason. Why is this?

Perhaps it’s because we elevate our own self-worth over the worth of others and the worth of the God of the Universe.

Paul wrote about gossip elsewhere when he wrote,

29 Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. 32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. (Ephesians 4:29-32)

The Greek word Paul uses here, sapros, can mean rotten or putrefied. It can apply to rotten fruit or fish.

Like maggot infested croutons, or moldy rotten vegetables, or completely putrid meat, gossip is not only unpalatable, it is disgusting in every sense of the word.

Admittedly, gossip is far worse than putrid food. It is an attack on the souls of people created in the image of God. It is an assault on God’s creation.

It’s not a game and not something we should be toying with.

What’s clear though, is that gossip can be difficult to avoid. Like vegetables that are oft forgotten in our homes, gossip tends to sneak up on us and surprise us so that we don’t know it’s happening until it’s too late.

So, what do we do?
If gossip is as serious as it seems, how do we combat it?

Paul gives us some ways to do this.

First, he tells us that no talk that is not “helpful for building others up.”

Nothing should come out of our mouths that is not specifically meant to build up the person being talked about.

Second, he says to not grieve the Holy Spirit by gossiping.

Essentially, this part tells us to remember how serious gossip is. It’s vital to not forget this fact. Gossip is serious, and not something to ignore.

Third, he tells us to attack the source of gossip, which can be anything from bitterness, to rage, to anger, to brawling and slander, to every other form of malice. If you struggle with bitterness toward a person, deal with it. If you’re angry with someone, talk to them! Unchecked anger or bitterness leads to gossip.

Fourth, he tells us to do something positive. He tells us to “be kind and compassionate to one another,” and to “forgive one another.”

So, we need to:

  • Build up
  • Remember
  • Attack
  • And do good.

If you’re a human, you struggle with gossip. It’s that simple. But, you don’t have to. There is a way to rid yourself of this problem, and it is to build up, remember, attack, and do good.

As followers of Jesus, we cannot afford to attack our brothers and sisters with the poison of gossip.

We need to reject gossip and love each other.

Here’s the challenge for this week:

Every time you find yourself in a situation in which you’re talking about someone who is not around, ask yourself,

  • Am I building them up?
  • Do I know how serious gossip is?
  • If I am gossiping, what has led to this and how can I attack it?
  • And how can I do good for the person I am gossiping about?

 Try this exercise this week, and share your experience with the rest of us here!