Salt & Light: Distinctive Conversation
Jesus calls us to be the salt and the light of the world, but 'shining our light for all to see' feels extremely daunting, and almost impossible when we feel like the only ones trying.
This is why we have launched Salt & Light: a series of posts by a number of 14-18 year old girls who are writing about how to keep living distinctively as a Christian girl, even when it's tough and feels lonely. This post from Sophie is a really important one: a challenge for us all to use our words in a way that glorifies God.
Having been a Christian for nearly two years I have found that one of my biggest struggles as a Christian girl is the difficulty not to gossip about people behind their backs, and not to judge and embarrass others at their own expense. This has been a constant struggle in my life, creating animosity in friendship groups and ruining friendships. So today I thought I would ask myself; why is gossiping so damaging, and how can we stop it?
Having recently begun at a new sixth form college I understand the awkwardness of beginning a new course or activity with a group of people you don’t know. Therefore I tend to always grasp for conversation starters, trying to break the tension of meeting new people. After trawling through the usual ‘what are you studying?’, ‘have you done the homework?’, ‘did you have a good weekend?’ the awkward silence descends as we both sit there twiddling our thumbs. Having sat there for a while a piece of information about the latest couple in school or celebrity gossip may float to the top of my brain. Maybe ‘did you hear that Anne was caught cheating on David?’ or ‘didn’t you think that Kim Kardashian looked awful at the Oscars?’. These conversations would generally start to flow naturally from there as we chat about the latest gossip.
The attraction of these kind of conversations is that they are really easy and also can make you look good. For example, knowing the (hypothetical) details of Anne cheating on David can make anyone feel good, because it makes you feel needed and important. We tend to ignore the negative effects until later when Anne comes crying to you saying that a horrible rumour has spread round the school.
As Christians we should all be trying to build people up and love one another. How can we do this when lying and gossiping is so part of our culture now that we do it without thinking?
The problem of gossip is not just that it could hurt someone’s feelings or that it spreads a rumour further, but that in The Bible God has clearly told us that we shouldn’t gossip. In Proverbs, Solomon gives us several verses to ponder over before we gossip.
A perverse person stirs up conflict, and a gossip separates close friends. (Proverbs 16:28)
Isn’t it crazy how relatable The Bible is sometimes? I can think of many examples at my school where gossiping has separated close friends, where the shameless spread of rumours has ruined friendships and caused arguments. It causes us to put ourselves above others and spread rumours which might not even be true.
For example, how many times have you embellished a story slightly to give it a more dramatic effect? I know I have thousands of times. Now it doesn’t seem so bad if you take one isolated event. However, when you think of how many times the rumour must have been told to other people which ‘slight’ embellishments then the rumour really does change quite considerably (and not usually for the better). It is a classic example of Chinese whispers where the end result or story is unrecognisable from a harmless joke.
Gossiping is the stuff of bullying and arguments. We know why we do it and why it is a problem but how do we stop it?
Now, just by reading this you have already begun to be the solution to gossiping, so well done you! Otherwise lets take a look at two practical tips to help with gossiping:
Praying to God could not be more important when struggling with an issue. So if you feel out of your depth or find it hard not to gossip in certain situations then why not pray to God to ask for help? God is all powerful and is always listening to our prayers so before school or during school take some time out to chat to God about your struggles and he will help you not to gossip. If you are suffering with being a victim of gossip, then why not pray for God’s love and patience to deal with the rumours and unkindness. Why not grab a Christian friend, parent or youth worker to pray with/for you?
2. Surround yourself with the right people.
I have a code with my Christian friend for when I am struggling with gossiping or I am beginnin
g to. That way she can remind me when I am being ungodly and unkind which allows me when I am surrounded by my non-Christian friends to remain vigilant.
Gossiping is such a integral part of society that it is hard to avoid it all the time. Maybe set yourself a challenge to avoid gossiping for a day, then a week and slowly build it up. We will all inevitably make mistakes, and slip into old habits – but the beauty of grace is that we don’t have to feel guilty about mistakes we make. We are able to keep asking for God’s forgiveness and strength, as we are changed by Him from the inside out.
Sophie is finishing her time in Cambridge as a sixth-form student this year, before moving to Durham to read Psychology. She loves to eat, laugh and sing her way through life with every day showing her more of God’s love and grace.