It was a big show down. Me and two of my buddies, Joe T and Terry K, were going to meet up with three other guys to settle a big dispute. It was a proverbial “meet me at the flagpole” kind of event, and there was no turning back now. You could almost hear the eerie music playing in the background, the spurs on our boots rattling as we walked to the middle of town for a big shoot out. That’s what it felt like.
You see, Terry had heard that Larry had something some bad about me. So now it was time to confront the talk. Basically, I told Larry, “I dare you to say it to my face!” and so we agreed at a set time to meet on the playground for this face-to-face confrontation to take place.
Now, at this point in my life, I had never actually been in a fight, and in fact, to this day in my life, I have never been in a real fist fight. Larry was short but strong, had been in lots of fights, and honestly, this was going to end badly for me. I think Terry and Joe came for moral support, and to be able to tell my mom that I died in glorious fashion at my own O.K. Corral.
We waited around a few minutes but Larry never made an appearance. By the grace of God, Larry had gotten in trouble in Mrs. Zioski’s class and had to stay in for recess. I lived another day, and by lunch we had decided that Larry wasn’t worth the trouble (ie. I didn’t want to go through life with my nose attached to my ear) and we all (including Larry) played football in our afternoon recess.
I talked a good game, especially when Larry wasn’t around, but truth is, I never ever mocked Larry for not showing up. It’s so easy to destroy people with our words in front of others, or on social media or through texting, but another thing entirely to do it when they are in our presences, especially if we feel threatened. Talk is easy.
Check out this piece by Jimmy Fallon involving Seattle Mariner baseball star, Robinson Cano. Last year, Cano played for the NY Yankees, but was traded to Seattle in the off-season. As the Mariners were getting ready to head to NY for Robinson’s first visit back to NY after being traded, Fallon thought it would be funny to let NY Yankee fans practice their booing. So Jimmy set up a cardboard cut out of Cano in a park, then invited Yankee fans to demonstrate their booing techniques. What happens next is hilarious:
You see, before Cano actually showed up, it was easy to bad-mouth him and talk badly about his character, his skill and his decision making. But the minute Robinson appeared, everybody’s tone changed. They offered man-hugs, high fives and even encouragement when they were facing the real Cano instead of the cardboard Cano.
So what do we learn about this video? Here are three thoughts for this weekend about our words around others:
Gossip will always come back to bite you: If you enjoy berating people behind their backs or blasting them through passive aggressive facebook posts (“some people I work with are complete idiots” was on my FB feed this week!) just know that it will always come back to bite you. Gossips are always easy targets for gossip. It’s just a fact of relationship: people who listen to gossip are the people who share gossip, and they are non-discriminate. In other words, when they hear gossip about you, they’ll spread it just like any other news. I always chuckle when one of my kids is involved in a circle of gossip, and then are crushed when they become the subject of someone else’s gossip. I always remind them that gossip is a sin (1 Timothy 5:13) and that people who gossip don’t care who it’s about! Gossip will always come back to bite you.
Ending gossip is easy: If you want to put an end to family or office gossip, it’s easy: stop participating. Don’t spread it. Don’t listen to it. Don’t pay any attention to those that gossip. I promise you that soon people will take you out of the loop and you won’t find yourself having to do the socially awkward political dance when you see people that you’ve heard gossip about. You know what else will happen? You will attract people to you who share your same anti-gossip conviction. There is something awesome about not having to worry about what everyone else is saying, and instead, having meaningful conversations and relationships. In reality, gossip is one of the ultimate forms of not caring for someone enough to do anything to help them, choosing instead, to just talk about their character flaws or personal mistakes. We end gossip when we begin to genuinely care for those around us.
Practice first-person problem solving: Ending gossip doesn’t mean ignoring real problems. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. Ending gossip means confronting problem first-person style! Instead of airing out my problems online or at the office water cooler, I deal with relationship issue the way Matthew 18:15-17 tells me to: person-to-person. If I have an issue with you, I go to you. If I was offended by something you said, I take it up with you. If you don’t like how I’m leading the business, you come to me. If you think I was sarcastic and cut you down in public, you take it up with me. By following God’s plan for problem solving we eliminate the place for gossip and we create peace instead of tension.
Telling a cardboard cut-out how you feel about it is easy; telling someone face-to-face is hard. Let’s not be like angry NY Yankee fans when it comes to personal conflict but instead, let’s follow the path the Bible lays out for us and choose God’s path for problem solving.
There is no gossip out side of the boat, so go ahead and take the plunge -- life is better on the water!