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Proverb 20: 19

One who goes about as a slanderer reveals secrets; therefore do not associate with a gossip.

There is a Jewish concept called Loshon hora. It is a very complex idea. Not complicated in the sense that it is difficult to understand but complex because there are so many tendrils of thought that it is an expansive concept. One can write entire books on it so please appreciate that my explanation or definition is needfully simple. At its base I would describe loshon hora as meaning speech which has the effect of prejudicing one person in the eyes of another. Fascinatingly, this applies even if what is said is true. Some things, I guess, are just better left unsaid. Our mothers taught us that but some of us forgot, me included.

Yesterday’s proverb warns that trouble is often found resulting from our mouths and tongues. Loshon hora is the principle that the words we speak should be words of encouragement and edification. Ephesians 4: 29 exemplifies this ideal, “Let no unwholesome word come out of your mouth, but if there is any good word for edification according to the need of the moment, say that, so that it will give grace to those who hear.” If our words do not meet the 4:29 test, we should arrest them. This is why we need to set a guard over our mouths so words which disparage others don’t tumble out.

The second part of this verse is particularly challenging, but it is also quite clear. Don’t hang around a gossip. Often people don’t know what to talk about so they talk about others. Here is my advice. Ask people about themselves. Ask them about their youth, interests. Frankly, I think people have a lot to say if we will start them down the right path. I like to hear my mom talk about the old days on the farm. I can see through her life experiences things like plowing behind a mule or working in tobacco. There are stories about things I will never experience. I think my brother and nephew are missing a great opportunity to not only learn but also to experience something vicariously through her stories.

Most people probably have stories they can tell you or hobbies to talk about.  So the next time someone begins to gossip, change the subject. Ask them about their high school years or where they grew up. Ask them about their favorite book, movie, vacation. What piece of art moved them? There is a world of experiences to discover. Take advantage of those experiences to learn something new.

In all our words, we should avoid making anyone look bad in another’s eyes. There are times when you might be forced to tell someone the truth about another, but most of the time we can avoid speaking unfavorably about others, and we should. Gossiping is a sin. Let’s get that straight. It is also a very common habit and so easy to fall into. Let’s all redouble our efforts to keep our language uplifting and edifying. One of the ways to help ourselves in this, is not to go around with gossips. When you cannot avoid a gossip, try to redirect their speech so they don’t drag you down with them. And, if they are Christian, pray for them.

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