It was one of my grown children who helped me see the error of my ways. Launching into a story about someone I'll call 'Millie'... relating a tale I'd been told by a friend who'd heard from a co-worker who knew for sure because someone had said ... I was stopped mid-sentence. "Mom," said my son (kindly), "before you say any more, just know that whatever you tell me will make a difference in what I think about Millie from now on."
Feeling chagrined, I fell silent. I was stung by the truth of these words. I could pass along my little bit of gossip, feeling only slightly guilty about doing so, and I would most likely forget it (as it is, I don't remember it now). But every time my son saw or spoke with 'Millie,' he would carry with him an impression left in the wake of my careless action. Even though I cannot, today, recall what I was starting to say, I know it was not something positive.
Oh, I might have tried to be 'nice.' I probably intended to mention that Millie had a few good qualities, bless her heart. But was there a good reason to casually mention her actions to my son? No. I had no reason to share whatever-it-was.
This happened several years ago, and will I sound dramatic when I say it was life changing? Probably. But it was.
Somehow my son's wise perspective had entirely escaped my notice before this time. I'd more or less taken it for granted that if all the Millies of this world never heard the negatives people said about them, they couldn't be hurt. Could they?
I immediately started noticing how my own opinions of people are formed by what others say. And by body language: smirks and headshakes and rolled eyeballs. Then I realized that while I cannot alter what others say about someone, I can definitely choose what I do or do not share, and with whom.
I can begin by checking my motives when I'm tempted in this area. Do I like to seem 'in the know?' Am I concerned that befriending someone others look down on will make me less appealing to those others? Do I want to be in the loop of shared laughter? Am I afraid a friend might like Millie more than she likes me, and thus I want to cast a shadow on Millie's character? Am I feeling jealous? Threatened? Angry? Inferior? Afraid?
Do I often find fault with others over inconsequential things? If so, can I prayerfully get to the root of why this might be the case?
I have a great many planks in my own eyes (Matthew 7:3). Now that I've begun in earnest to let God deal with these, my vision is growing clearer. I can focus on Our Lord, and see more clearly what He wants to change in me.
And one thing I know for sure. It is time to let go of Millie's splinters.
'We make ourselves judges of the minds of our fellow creatures, which are for God alone to judge.' (St. Catherine of Siena)
'Do not judge, and you will not be judged.' (Luke 6:37)
Painting: Mehclers, The Sermon, 1886; cropped
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Thank you for this heart cleansing post! This is an essential meditation! Additionally, I imagine that this world's "Millies" may grow more deeply in love with Jesus as they repeatedly forgive those who judge them.ReplyDelete
Thank you for such a good perspective. I'm sure we all are Millies at some time or other, and learning to forgive is vital. I think immediately of someone who has "made a Millie out of me" on several occasions. To learn to forgive - and not in turn make a Millie out of the Millie-maker! - is its own specific challenge for me. !Delete
Wow, you hit one outta the park with this Nancy..... thank you for the eloquent reminder....ReplyDelete
Have a lovely day, friend and thank you for stopping over at my space with kind words.:)
What a kind thing to say! Thank you so much, Chris. I hope you're having a good day also, and feeling fit as the proverbial fiddle :)!Delete
Motives....I've got a good one--I'm trying to help my children steer away from Millie's fate by pointing out the error of her ways! Ha! What I'm really doing is teaching them to be a Pharisee, just like me!ReplyDelete
Jamie, I have pointed out the error of several people's ways to my own children in the past. In at least one case (of a now deceased relative who'd made really sad life choices), they could see the problem and its effects for themselves, so I didn't feel I was making them think less of the person, as I wasn't sharing any new information. To me, this was not really the same thing as "gossip." I'd be interested in what anyone else might think about that. And in cases of not letting my kids see or hear the works of particular (raunchy) celebrities, for instance, I had to point out the fact that there were problems with lifestyles that went against God's will. It can be tough making the distinction between discerning and judging, and teaching our children to do the same!Delete
I hear that, Nancy! I want my kids to see the connection between actions and outcomes. But I've pointed it out in a really judgmental way. Instead of saying "God wants us to be married before we have children--it's not just right, it makes us happier" I say things like "Well, that's what comes of having babies before you get married, right kids?"ReplyDelete
I read this post yesterday but didn't have time to stop and comment. I have been thinking a lot about your story in the meantime. Sometimes we think we are teaching our children and then discover we are actually learning from them. Thank you for sharing your story.
Thank you for taking time to comment today. My children have taught me so much!Delete
While in adoration this week it was made clear to me that my gossiping had to stop, I had to come home and look up the defination of gossip just to be sure I understood so I can make changes. How God works that I was able to read this today. I love how you have helped open my eyes. What an excellent example to me on what it is I have been doing and the harm my actions cause. Thank you!ReplyDelete
I wonder if I can get this thought into words. Therese, your comment made me think of how what one person (in this case, my son) says offhandedly can then spread and affect OTHER people later. It's the same way with gossip. I wonder how some of the negative comments I've tossed out so carelessly have affected people long after? Ouch. But it's a good ouch, because I can think about it now BEFORE I speak. I don't know if I got that thought into words all that well, but thank YOU for helping me think it !!! :)Delete
Nancy, I understand what it is you are saying. Like ripples in a pond, how things we say go on and on. But, you are right, our eyes are opening and we need to think before we speak so as to stop any more slander coming from us. I have already experienced my guardian angel at work. I fear he will be kept busy but even that knowledge at his work draws me closer to God. Thank you so much for sharing so honestly your experience!Delete
And thank you for sharing YOURS!Delete
Thank you for this. I needed reminding of what gossip can do. I am guilty.ReplyDelete
As am I. Thanks so much.Delete