Gossiping, Criticizing, Judging and Reconciliation by Mother Teresa
Don’t fritter away our days on empty talk, gossip, and trivialities as, “Gossip is no good! It causes hard feelings and comes between friends.”(Proverbs 16:28 CEV) And, “As surely as a wind from the north brings rain, so a gossiping tongue causes anger!” (Proverbs 25:23 NLT) We know that, “There’s nothing so delicious as the taste of gossip! It melts in your mouth.” (Proverbs 18:8 CEV) Yet, Christians should stay away from it. And, “Though some tongues just love the taste of gossip, Christians have better uses for language than that. Don’t talk dirty or silly. That kind of talk doesn’t fit our style. Thanksgiving is our dialect.” (Ephesians 5:4 MSG) Also, “Don’t talk out of both sides of your mouth; avoid careless banter, white lies, and gossip.”(Proverbs 4:24 MSG) “Loose talk has a way of getting picked up and spread around. Little birds drop the crumbs of your gossip far and wide.” (Ecclesiastes 10:20 MSG)
Don’t listen to gossip as, “Listening to gossip is like eating cheap candy; do you really want junk like that in your belly?” (Proverbs 18:8 MSG) And “Evil people relish malicious conversation; the ears of liars itch for dirty gossip.” (Proverbs 17:4 MSG) But when you as the elders listen to malicious gossip, all your people will be influenced, as “When a leader listens to malicious gossip, all the workers get infected with evil.” (Proverbs 29:12 MSG)
Avoid people who gossip, as these people “were filled (permeated and saturated) with every kind of unrighteousness, iniquity, grasping and covetous greed, and malice. [They were] full of envy and jealousy, murder, strife, deceit and treachery, ill will and cruel ways. [They were] secret backbiters and gossipers,” (Romans 1:29 AMP) Gossipers are “Mean people [who] spread mean gossip; their words smart and burn.” (Proverbs 16:27 MSG); they cause lots of troubles amongst friends as, “A troublemaker plants seeds of strife; gossip separates the best of friends.” (Proverbs 16:28 NLT) Be alert that, “Dishonest people use gossip to destroy their neighbors;” (Proverbs 11:9 CEV) and ruin their reputation.
God has warned us not to spread gossip and rumors, “Do not spread slanderous gossip among your people. [9:l6 Hebrew] ‘Do not try to get ahead at the cost of your neighbor’s life, for I am the LORD.’” (Leviticus 19:16 NLT)
Gossip is another way of criticizing. As Mother Teresa says,
“In our work we may often be caught in idle conversations or gossip. Let us be well on our guard, for we may be caught while visiting families. We may talk about the private affairs of this or that one and so forget the real aim of our visit. We come to bring the peace of Christ, and what if we are a cause of trouble? How our
Lord will be hurt by such conduct! We must never allow people to speak against priests, religious, or their neighbors.” (A Life for God, 60)
“We must cultivate that sacred silence which makes people remember the words of Jesus: See how they love one another.How often we find ourselves speaking of the faults of another. How often our conversation is about someone who is not present. Yet see the compassion of Christ toward Judas, the man who received so much love yet betrayed his own master. But the master kept the sacred silence and did not betray Judas. Jesus could have easily spoken in public—–as we often do—–telling the hidden intentions and deeds of Judas to others. But he didn’t. Instead, he showed mercy and charity. Rather than condemning Judas, he called him his friend.” (Thirsting for God, FEBRUARY 15)
“Criticism is nothing less than dressed up pride. It eats up all the love of God. A truly generous soul must never stoop to criticism. As a rule, people who criticize never do it openly, but go about doing it in a whisper. Refrain from prejudice, which means to set your mind against somebody. It is very sad when it becomes a part of our lives.” (Thirsting for God, JUNE 22)
We cause hurt when we criticize others. As Mother Teresa says, “Violence of the tongue is very real—sharper than any knife, wounding and creating bitterness that only the grace of God can heal.”(The Joy in Loving, 10 Feb) And when we wound others by criticizing them, they hold on to their hurts. Old hurts make reconciliation very difficult. We can’t let go of old hurts. Sometimes our memories are decades, even centuries old and keep asking for revenge.
Father Henri Nouwen says, “Holding people’s faults against them often creates an impenetrable wall. But listen to Paul: ‘For anyone who is in Christ, there is a new creation: the old order is gone and a new being is there to see. It is all God’s work’ (2 Corinthians 5:17—18) Indeed, we cannot let go of old hurts, but God can. Paul says, ‘God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself, not holding anyone’s faults against them’ (2 Corinthians 5:19). It is God’s work, but we are God’s ministers, because the God who reconciled the world to God entrusted to us ‘the message of reconciliation’ (2 Corinthians 5:19). This message calls us to let go of old hurts in the Name of God. This is the message our world most needs to hear.” (Bread for the Journey, Dec 30)
But, what should we do when others hurt us? It is important that we do not hit back by criticizing or speaking ill of them as St James says, “Do not criticize one another, my friends. If you criticize or judge another Christian, you criticize and judge the Law. If you judge the Law, then you are no longer one who obeys the Law, but one who judges it. God is the only law—giver and judge; He alone can save and destroy. Who do you think you are, to judge someone else?” (James 4:11-12 TEV) What, then, can we do? Jesus advises us to settle our faults privately, “If your brother sins against you, go to him and show him his fault. But do it privately, just between yourselves. If he listens to you, you have won your brother back.” (Matthew 18:15 TEV) St Paul asks us to be tolerant, patient and forgiving whenever we quarrel with others “Be tolerant with one another and forgive one another whenever any of you have a complaint against someone else. You must forgive one another just as the Lord has forgiven you.” (Colossians 3:13 TEV) Don’t complain against each other as St James advises us, “Do not complain against one another, my friends, so that God will not judge you.” (James 5:9 TEV)
It is to cur good that we don’t criticize or gossip but should we ever try to point out the faults of anyone, we are to gently do so to him alone, “My friends, if someone is caught in any kind of wrongdoing, those of you who are spiritual should set him right, but you must do it in a gentle way. And keep an eye on yourselves, so that you will not be tempted too. Help carry one another’s burdens, and in this way you will obey the law of Christ.” (Galatians 6:1—2 TEV)
We often judge people by cutting them out and dismissing them. We say, “He has a problem with drinking; she is depressed; he has mismanaged his business; he is a liar; she cannot be trusted. . . .so we’d better not take the risk of being involved with them.” We avoided them straight away. Jesus advises us, “Do not judge others, so that God will not judge you, for God will judge you in the same way you judge others, and He will apply to you the same rules you apply to others. Why, then, do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the log in your own eye?” Matthew 7:1—2 TEV) St Paul advises, “Let us stop judging one another. Instead you should decide never to do anything that would make others stumble or fall into sin.”(Romans 14:13 TEV)
Mother Teresa also advises us not to judge others, “Be kind in your actions. Do not think you are the only one who can do the efficient work, work worth showing. This makes you harsh in your judgment of others who may not have the same talents. God will ask of that sister only what He has given her, and not what He has given you; so why interfere with the plan of God? All things are His, and He gives as He pleases. You do your best and think that others do their best for God’s own purpose. Their best may be a total failure—–what is that to you? You follow the way He has chosen for you. For others also, let Him choose.” (A Life for God, 66)
Mother Teresa questions: “Who are we to accuse anybody? It is possible that we see them do something we think is not right, but we do not know why they are doing it.
Jesus encouraged us not to judge anyone.
Maybe we are the ones responsible for others doing things we think are not fight.
Let us not forget that we are dealing with our brothers and sisters. That leper, that sick person, that drunk, are all our brothers and sisters. They, too, have been created by a greater love.
This is something we should never forget.
That sick person, that alcoholic, that thief, are my brothers and sisters.
It is possible that they find themselves abandoned in the street because no one gave them love and understanding. You and I could be in their place if we had not received love and understanding from other human beings.
I will never forget the alcoholic man who told me his story. He was a man who had surrendered to alcohol to forget the fact that no else loved him.
Before we judge the poor, we have the duty to look inside ourselves.” (In My Own Words, 55)
But, Jesus also questions His disciples as to why they do not use their judgment to judge what is the right thing to do for themselves, “Why do you not judge for yourselves the right thing to do?”(Luke 12:57 1EV) In addition, Jesus tells us that we are to judge rightly by God’s standard: “Stop judging by external standards, and judge by true standards.” (John 7:24 TEV) Yes, we are not to judge a person but we must use our judgment to evaluate his behaviour. We are also asked to use our judgment not to associate with Christians who do wicked deeds. As St Paul has clearly stated “What I meant was that you should not associate with a person who calls himself a believer but is immoral or greedy or worships idols or is a slanderer or a drunkard or a thief. Don’t even sit down to eat with such a person.”(l Corinthians 5:11 TEV) We should be discerning to “Watch out for those who cause divisions and upset people’s faith and go against the teaching you have received. Keep away from them! For those who do such things are not serving Christ our Lord, but their own appetites. By their fine words and flattering speech they deceive innocent people.”(Romans 16:17—18 TEV) But, as for non—Christian, St Paul said that we are to leave it to God to judge them, “After all, it is none of my business to judge outsiders. God will judge them. But should you not judge the members of your own fellowship? As the scripture says ‘Remove the evil person from your group.’”(l Corinthians 5:12—13 TEV)
As for judging ourselves, we should constantly be alert to exercise our judgment at all times so that we do not fall into temptation, by a temporary lapse in our judgment. The time to pass final judgment on ourselves and others is to wait until the Lord comes as St Paul advises: “Now, I am not at all concerned about being judged by you or by any human standard; I don’t even pass judgement on myself. My conscience is clear, but that does not prove that I am really innocent. The Lord is the One who passes judgement on me. So you should not pass judgement on anyone before the right time comes. Final judgement must wait until the Lord comes; He will bring to light the dark secrets and expose the hidden purpose of people’s minds. And then all will receive from God the praise they deserve.” (1 Corinthians 4:3-5 1EV)
Instead of gossiping, criticizing and judging we are all asked to be messengers of reconciliation as Henri Nouwen says:
“To the degree that we accept that through Christ we ourselves have been reconciled with God we can be messengers of reconciliation for others. Essential to the work of reconciliation is a nonjudgmental presence. We are not sent to the world to judge, to condemn, to evaluate, to classify, or to label. When we walk around as if we have to make up our minds about people and tell them what is wrong with them and how they should change, we only create more division. Jesus says it clearly, ‘Be compassionate just as your Father is compassionate. Do not judge. . . do not condemn. . .forgive.’ (Luke 6:36—37 NJB)
In a world that constantly asks us to make up our minds about other people, a nonjudgmental presence seems nearly impossible. But it is one of the most beautiful fruits of a deep spiritual life and will be easily recognized by those who long for reconciliation.” (Bread for the Journey, Dec 27)
“Reconciliation is much more than a one-time event by which a conflict is resolved and peace established. A ministry of reconciliation goes far beyond problem solving, mediation, and peace agreements. There is not a moment in our lives without the need for reconciliation. When we dare to look at the myriad hostile feelings and thoughts in our hearts and minds, we will immediately recognize the many little and big wars in which we take part. Our enemy can be a parent, a child, a ‘friendly’ neighbor, people with different lifestyles, people who do not think as we think, speak as we speak, or act as we act. They all can become ‘them.’ Right there is where reconciliation is needed.
Reconciliation touches the most hidden parts of our souls. God gave reconciliation to us as a ministry that never ends.” (Bread for the Journey, Dec 29)
“When we are free from the need to judge or condemn, we can become safe places for people to meet in vulnerability and take down the walls that separate them. Being deeply rooted in the love of God, we cannot help but invite people to love one another. When people realize that we have no hidden agendas or unspoken intentions, that we are not trying to gain any profit for ourselves, and that our only desire is for peace and reconciliation, they may then find the inner freedom and courage to leave their guns at the door and enter into conversation with their enemies.
Many times this happens even without our planning. Our ministry of reconciliation most often takes place when we ourselves are least aware of it. Our simple, nonjudqmental presence does it.” (Bread for the Journey, Dec 28)
The quotations about “gossip” are taken from www.biblegateway.com
AMP Amplified Bible
CEV Contemporary English Version
MSG The Message
NLT New Living Translation
TEV Today’s English Version