Have you ever been the victim of gossip? When a couple is having relationship problems, it seems everyone thinks they know what’s going on and they know what should happen.
Only, they don’t know. Usually their information is one-sided and distorted facts. Still, their gossip hurts, spreads like a disease, and can have long-lasting implications. So how do you respond when you’ve been the subject of gossip?
Please know that God hates gossip.
The problem goes back to the beginning of time. Look at Psalm 55 to read David’s intimate story of betrayal by a close friend. You are not alone … countless people have felt the pain you’re experiencing.
There’s no way to be emotionally unaffected when people talk negatively about you. It hurts! The problem becomes bigger when you’re unable to let go of the hurt. When years later you’re still emotionally crippled by the words of others. You must learn to let them go.
1. Decide. You do have a choice. Many victims of gossip don’t recognize their own power. Yes, lies have been told. Yes, they hurt. But, no…you do not have to live like a victim forever. Recognize the emotional cost to you when you hang on to the hurt. You can decide to release it to God.
But, again, how?
Start with noticing your internal self-talk. Instead of thinking to yourself, “I am so angry or…I am still so hurt…I am being lied about,” make a shift. Instead, think (or say to yourself), “I’m aware that I still feel angry over this…or …I’m aware that I still feel hurt.” Then be curious about that. This isn’t just semantics. It’s a conscious shift in empowering yourself to recognize your negative emotions are still fresh and then decide whether or not they still serve you.
2. Ask yourself, “What purpose do these feelings serve me now?” Feelings are important warning bells to inform you that there’s a problem. Whether your pain is physical or emotional, pain says you need to take care of something. Maybe your pain is saying it’s time to detach from someone. Or, maybe it’s telling you it’s time to lovingly confront someone. But, if your pain no longer serves a purpose, consider whether it’s time to let it go.
3. Find a new perspective. Pain is an attention hog. It wants all of your focus. Instead, begin to look for the things God is doing in your life through this trial. That doesn’t mean you deny the “hard.” It means you acknowledge His presence through it. For example, Joseph (Genesis 41 - 43) lived a righteous life and was sold by his wicked brothers into slavery. That could have given Joseph enough reason to stay bitter. But then Potiphar’s wife lied about Joseph and Joseph was sent to prison!
Joseph didn’t pretend that he was on some kind of vacation and everything was wonderful. He was hurt. And probably angry. But he purposely kept his focus on God instead of the injustice he experienced. He allowed his character to continue being developed into the man God created him to be.
4. Refuse to rehearse the negative. This is where you actively practice Phillippians 4:8 (Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.) Friend, this WILL make a radical difference in your life and emotional well-being!
5. Forgive. Forgiveness doesn’t necessarily mean reconciliation. Gossip (and other sin) can act like a poison to you, mentally and emotionally. Forgiveness is releasing the toxic impact of that poison. It’s refusing to allow that person’s cruel words to have power over you.
6. Overcome evil with good (Romans 12:21). Gossip and lies are evil. Whatever you do, refuse to react with more gossip of your own.. Pray for those who are talking about you and, if there is opportunity, do good to them. By doing this the Bible says you are not overcome and it can be like heaping burning coals on their head. Regardless of what is being said, when you behave this way, a light is being shone on their bad behavior and others will see it for what it is.
Be aware, forgiveness does not necessarily negate consequences of someone’s gossip. For example, you may need to find a new church and new friends. But, like Joseph and David, your character can grow through your suffering. Joseph is remembered for his unwavering trust in God. And, David. He’s remembered as a man after God’s own heart. And, isn’t that a legacy we all want to leave?