To preface this, I need to explain a few of my core beliefs. I believe in God and I believe He knows each of us. I also believe He loves each of us. Evidence of that can be found in the instructions He's given us--love your neighbor, don't bear false witness, bridle our tongues, blessed are the peacemakers... I could go on and on sharing the instructions I believe He's given to encourage us to be kind, loving, peaceable, respectful.
I also believe in an adversary. I believe in Satan. I believe he's a miserable creature who tempts us and desires our destruction. I believe he wants us to be miserable like he is. I believe that he cheers at our failures and wants us to hate and hurt each other.
All my life, I've been taught that God knows our hearts and minds. He's omniscient, all knowing. But Satan isn't. He doesn't know our thoughts unless we vocalize them. He didn't know Job's heart and he doesn't know mine. He wouldn't know about my insecurities or the places I'm vulnerable unless I vocalize them. He wouldn't know of my heartaches, pain, or inappropriate thoughts, unless I vocalize them. If I'm strong and turn to God, He'll give me power over Satan and I'll be able to avoid his temptations and dark and depressing thoughts. God said Satan would have power to bruise my heel, but I'd have power to crush his head.
I hate gossip. I'm not going to say I haven't been involved in gossipy situations before because I have. I can think of specific instances where I've been annoyed, frustrated, or hurt and my reaction has been to have a full-fledged gossip-fest. Every time I do, I feel like garbage. I'm ashamed of myself and I feel dirty and disappointed.
I was talking to a friend the other day and she told me about a hurtful situation that had broken her heart and had been the pivotal event that caused her to relocate her family.She'd been the target of unkind gossip--some true, some misunderstood and some completely false. My heart ached for the suffering that had been inflicted on her and her family and I hoped her new neighbors would treat her and her family with more kindness.
I remember a few years ago being at the heart of a similar situation. A disagreement with a neighbor I'd considered a friend, escalated into an ugliness that shocked me and I soon discovered that while I'd considered it a disagreement between the two of us and thought it could and should be remedied with an apology on both sides, turned into a feeding frenzy. Suddenly people I hardly knew were looking at me strangely or asking me questions that proved that the version they'd heard was full of exaggerations and hatefulness. I was shocked and hurt and soon discovered that apologies on my part would never heal the wound because once she'd entrenched herself in her hateful spreading of the story to others, there was no turning back for her.
As I thought over the experiences my friend had with gossip and my own experience, I had a realization. I believe Heavenly Father has instructed us not to bear false witness, (I interpret that as spreading hatefulness, rumors and GOSSIP) because it not only destroys the love he wants us to have for each other, it also arms Satan with ammunition to use on our neighbors. If I talk about So-and-So and spread around what I see as their shortcomings, I'm giving Satan the tools to know how to work on So-and-So. I might say to my friend, "She's so lazy. Have you seen her house? She must spend all day sitting around wasting time," or "She's such a slut. Have you seen the way she dresses and carries herself?" or "He has no business talking to her like that when he's married. Is he looking to have an affair?" but I'm not just being a horrible friend and neighbor. I'm aiding and abetting Satan as he tries to destroy people.
I might get my gossipy kicks by sharing a juicy tidbit with a friend and I'm done. But Satan won't stop there. He'll take my hurtful little dagger and he'll patiently and cruelly, dig and twist and carve with that little dagger in an effort to destroy someone.
I don't want to help Satan in his cunning plan. I'm pretty sure none of us do.
So how do we avoid being his unwitting partner? We love each other. We give people the benefit of the doubt. We walk away when others are gossiping or better yet, if we have the courage, we speak up and put an end to it. We follow Thumper's mother's advice and if we can't say somethin' nice, we don't say nothin' at all. We shut up when we're tempted to sully someone's name or reputation and we speak up when someone needs a kind word.
We become more like our Savior. I'd rather be partners with Him.