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Are you a thief without realizing it?

It feels exhilarating. Entertaining. Our imaginations take over and we’re intoxicated by the rush. It’s no big deal. Just harmless fun. They deserve it!  We shrug it off and steal it from them. We snatch it and never look back. Never break a sweat. Success is ours!

And they never saw it coming.

Our victims are always unsuspecting and never present. We sneak in through the shadows, completely undetected. Otherwise, it would be impossible to steal what we’re after!

Afterward, we retreat as if nothing ever happened. We will steal again. We’re good at it.

We are gossipers. A thief who steals our receiver’s right to the truth. Who steal our target’s dignity- something they can never fully recover. Jewelry, money, and material items- all of these can be replaced; this isn’t so with someone’s reputation. We have stolen something worth more than any material item by carelessly casting a stain on their reputation.

Rumors ignite and quickly catch fire through our hushed conversations and gasps or with our critical texts and posts. In most cases, we aren’t even certain if the rumor is true, nor do we care. It isn’t hurting us and it satisfies an insatiable craving.

Interestingly enough, Marge and Homer Simpson put it best. “Homer it’s very easy to criticize…” said Marge. “And fun, too!” replied Homer.

But this is the kind of entertainment that hurts. It’s a spiritual smack-down for all involved.

It’s the boss blacklisting his employee. The friend turning her back. It’s the desperate seeking popularity. The neighbor thirsty for a new story. It’s the self-righteous in their ignorance. The church member casting judgment. It’s the viral body-shamers. The jealous retaliating. It’s the big, bad bully scoring his next fix. The petty politician seeking ratings. It’s the listeners who don’t speak up. The Mom-shamers keeping score. It’s those swimming around in this spiritual cesspool. The weak pretending to be strong.

We have all been guilty of using our powerful voices to weaken others.

“Likewise the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark” (James 3:5).

Yet, the thief is not without injury. Gossiping is a spirit-saboteur. Any negativity casts a dark shadow on our spirit. It plants a seed of contempt and takes up space where goodness could grow instead.

As Deeprak Chopra states in the best-selling book, The Shadow Effect, “Judgment is guilt wearing a moral mask to disguise pain.”

There is a deeper reason we gossip; it is rooted in our own insecurities and pain. Our culture teaches us to be competitive at all costs. Loving others is secondary. Loving ourselves is even farther down on the list. Gossiping about others is just another way to destroy our competition and to project our own pain.

It can only come from a thief with a broken spirit.

Take a glimpse at the latest headlines or listen intently to your next conversation. It’s everywhere. It’s cultural crack. It’s become in vogue to devour others- some twisted sign of strength. Accusations are flung about without any remorse; legacies become casualties with an impulsive tweet or post.

Words have become weapons.

Sadly, the presence of criticism is born in the absence of perspective. You never truly know what someone is battling, and gossiping only makes life harder for them. Life is hard enough for us all. Why should we make it any harder?

You don’t have to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes; you just have to take a minute to consider how they may be feeling.

Our words have the astounding capability to be used as a salve for another’s spirit, not a tool used to destroy them. They can be a glistening reflection of another’s good qualities, not a blaring spotlight shone on their bad ones. Our words can grow our own goodness by pointing out the goodness in others.

So instead of gossiping, let’s choose to lift each other up! To encourage. To allow our consciences to respond before our mouths or fingers do. To refuse to listen passively. To offer others grace and offer it to ourselves at the same time. To be loud about the truth and silent about the nonsense. To be a comrade to others throughout the battles of life.

“Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.” (Ephesians 4:29)

The next time you’re in a conversation where someone else is being criticized, think to yourself…

Will I be a thief or a comrade?

 

By Melissa Vello

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