Today I caught myself gossiping. I used to be a terrible gossip. I would spread all kinds of information about people. I could not seem to stop myself from talking about any “news” I heard. Over the last few years and especially the last few months, I have worked really, really hard at stopping this terrible habit. When I hear something negative about someone, I stop participating in the conversation and I try to change the subject. I’ve been doing so well that I almost forgot about gossiping.
Today, though, I spread some gossip. What I said was true, but it was unkind and unnecessary. While I was still talking, I realized what I was doing. I stopped talking right away, in the middle of the story. Afterward, I felt really awful, almost sick to my stomach. The information that I had shared weighed on me and I couldn’t shake the bad feeling inside myself.
Now that I am aware of the negative energy that this one piece of gossip brought into my heart, I will guard even more vigilantly against falling into this habit. I wonder if I was full of negative energy all the time when I gossiped regularly and naturally, without even thinking about it.
As I was reflecting on this tonight, I thought of a line from scripture. I looked it up and it is from Philippians 4:8-9:
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Keep on doing what you have learned and received and heard and seen in me. Then the God of peace will be with you.
Tonight I went to visit my Aunt Kay, who is in a nursing home. My sister, Melissa, called me on Sunday and said that she was concerned about our aunt. My sister visits Aunt Kay regularly and was very worried. I have not visited and felt suddenly frightened that I would lose my aunt without letting her know that I love her. John and I drove to visit her, picking up Melissa along the way. We had a wonderful visit in the car, chattering the whole time. Melissa warned me, though, not to expect much from my aunt. She has aged. She has lost weight. She has been reduced to monosyllabic responses. On Sunday, she could barely keep her eyes open. I prepared myself for the worst.
The thing I have always found amazing about my Aunt Kay is that she gives unconditional love. No matter what I have done or failed to do, she always shows me complete and total acceptance and love. One Christmas, when I had been particularly distant from her, she sent me a note assuring me that there was nothing I could ever do that would make her stop loving me with all her heart. My aunt, having no children of her own, was a wonderful babysitter. Once, when our children were little, John asked my aunt, “Kay, you have a lot of experience with children. Do you have any advice?” My aunt looked at him and said, “Just love them.” That was good advice and we have tried to follow it, loving our children the way she has always loved me.
And so I went to see my Aunt Kay tonight, only the tiniest bit fearful that she would be upset with me for going so long without visiting. I knew that she loved me and hoped she would forgive me for not visiting. And I was so blessed by the visit. She was so happy to see me. She spoke to me in full sentences, something Melissa says she has not done in a long time. She even made a couple of jokes. I could see the effort she had to put into forming each word and pushing it out. She is old and fragile and tiny, but she is still my Aunt Kay and she still loves me. God’s grace was overflowing during that visit.
Whatever is true. Whatever is lovely. Whatever is gracious. Think about these things. Then the God of peace will be with you.
I compare the negative feelings inside myself after the gossip with the positive feelings after visiting my sister and my aunt and I want to hold onto the good with all my strength. I want to think about and talk about only the lovely and gracious and good. Tonight, Melissa posted on her Facebook wall:
Nothing is too good to be true, nothing is too wonderful to happen, nothing is too good to last; when you look to God for your good. This has been a wonderful day!!
Amen, Melissa! And thank you for offering me the opportunity to find redemption and love today.