Our family has been the brunt of gossip by three close family friends. It really hurts. The ripples of them talking is far reaching I our social circle. It’s been devastating. This was three years ago. How do we recover?
Gossip is toxic and that’s why the Bible speaks so strongly against it. I’m assuming by your question that these people are no longer close family friends, but the pain is there nonetheless. David in Psalm 55 struggled with betrayal by a close friend and his pain was great. But your bigger question is how do we recover? I’m not sure if you’re asking how do we recover socially or emotionally but let me tackle the emotional one first, and then I’ll touch on the social one.
It’s been three years now since this happened and I want you to ask yourself a question. What’s kept you from letting go of the hurt and anger? Sometimes we don’t let toxic emotions go because they feel so justified and we tell ourselves that we’re entitled to feel them. And you are. But what does it cost you to hang on to them? At this point they are crippling you, not helping you.
So how do you let go? You start by deciding to. That may sound rather elementary but our will is an important part of letting go of negative emotions. Sometimes we don’t realize that have a choice to let go. Negative feelings can be so consuming that they feel like they are who we are instead of what we feel.
Instead of saying to yourself, “I am so angry and hurt about this.” I want you to try telling yourself, “I’m aware that I’m still feeling angry and hurt over this.” When you say it in this new way, you become aware of another part of you that is now able to decide what you want to do with these feelings. Now YOU have your feelings, instead of your feelings having you. This small change can make a big difference. Our feelings are not who we are, they are just our feelings and sometimes we hang on to our feelings much longer than we need to. We can learn to let them go.
The second question I want you to ask yourself is “What purpose do these feelings serve anymore?” Our emotions function as warning bells that something is wrong. When we feel pain, either physical or emotional, it motivates us to take action to remedy the problem. Is the pain motivating you to talk with your family friends to attempt to reconcile or to confront them about their gossip? If not, then it’s time to let them go.
How do we let go? First, enlarge your perspective. Instead of focusing on your pain, see what God has done in building your character or how he has drawn especially close to you during this time. In the Bible, when Joseph was sold into slavery by his brothers, and Potiphar’s wife lied about him and he was thrown in prison, Joseph felt hurt but didn’t get bitter because he stayed focused on God’s purposes in all of his affliction. God never allows evil to triumph if we are surrendered to his purposes (Genesis 37-46). That’s why Romans 8:28,29 can be such a precious promise to us. God will cause all things to work together for our good, but the good is to conform us into Christ’s image.
Second, refuse to rehearse the negative anymore. Don’t meditate on the bad stuff that happened. Instead, let you mind dwell on what is true, good, right and lovely as Paul counseled us in Philippians 4:8. Whatever we fix our mind on will affect our emotions. Practice thinking about good things in your life or your day instead of what happened to you.
Thank God and praise him in the midst of your suffering (1 Thess. 5:18). This brings honor to him and thwarts Satan’s attempt to get you stuck in self-pity and anger. Satan already used these people as his pawns to destroy your family’s reputation, but don’t let him destroy you by hanging onto your bad feelings.
Forgive these people for what they have done. You may not be able or willing to reconcile the relationship if there has been no repentance for what they have done, but forgiving them releases the poison that they have infected you with by their actions.
Lastly, overcome evil with good (Romans 12:21). What they did to you was evil. Refuse to pay them back with gossip of your own. Pray for them and if the occasion warrants, do good to them. The Bible tells us that by doing so, you will not be overcome by the evil they tried to inflict on you and it will be like heaping burning coals on their head.
Recovering socially takes time. You may need to build new friendships or find a new church if that’s where it originated. Over time, people’s character speaks for itself and if you do right, I believe that people will see the truth.