When my children were young we lived amongst a lot of families where we women were all having children or raising children. In the era before every household had 2 cars, we walked our older children to kindergarten or school together, pushing our young ones in prams or strollers. In fact, we called ourselves the “Pram Brigade!”
We looked forward to coming together twice a day to swap mothering tips, discuss household management, recipes and childbearing. High up on this list too were infant welfare visits, vaccinations and Baby’s latest milestone. This was the highlight of our day. And it was good. But as often happens when women meet together regularly, a gradual overlapping of the boundaries of friendship and discretion slowly overtook us.
A few mothers started gossiping about a neighbour who was not with us on a particular morning. Each woman tried to outdo the previous gossiper with another tidbit of “news” until the poor woman who was the unwilling topic of conversation had been badmouthed into a corner from which there was no escape. I too was guilty of listening, for the morsels of gossip were indeed interesting- I let them slide down my throat easily, relishing the details which seemed to whet our appetites for more. By the time we reached the kindergarten, this woman’s housekeeping ability, mothering, integrity, morality and even marriage had come under some very expert dissection. We had not only gone through her home and family but had even figuratively been so bold as to enter the marital bed, discussing things that were a matter only between our friend and her husband.
Suddenly by lunchtime, my absent friend of the morning had become a stranger- a sad figure who obviously had no redeeming points in her life and who was in fact, a person to avoid like the plague. Furthermore, I was suffering from a bad case of indigestion, with the morsels of gossip stuck in my chest accompanied by a vague sense of sadness and guilt. Not yet a Christian, I never thought to pray, but a sense of injustice towards my friend who was the victim of a character assassination was developing, and I found myself grieving for her and our lost friendship. Women can be the cattiest creatures alive. Just a few words can set a bushfire blazing with horrendous results. For the friend who was the victim of this gossiping session, obviously felt something was different the next morning when she took her children to school with us. And there was indeed something different.
A bushfire had erupted and there was no putting out its flames! Each of us had suffered not only a bad case of indigestion overnight, mulling over lumps of gossip, but those things which were shared had managed to force a wedge between us and this woman. We felt such guilt that we felt uncomfortable with her and she could sense this. Some women tried to compensate by being over friendly and we all came across as false.
Gradually to the increased discomfort of our maligned friend, we became less verbiose, and our wicked loose tongues at last ran out of things to say. So when at the end of the week our friend announced she was taking her husband to work each morning and then driving the children to school, we all felt that now familiar pang of guilt and regret. We all knew we did not deserve to call ourselves her friend after that morning. And we never did recover her friendship.
The Morning Of The Gossip heralded the demise of other close friendships too. For each of us in our hearts knew that when women start gossiping you could very well be the next object of interest. Gradually the morning conversations became more formal, with no one ready to be open about anything that was precious to us. Our sense of camaraderie slowly evaporated. And the walks seemed to take forever.
Forty years down the track, a lot of water has passed under the bridge. I have become a Christian and have learnt the Truth- that God hates gossip and maligning another person. I have repented and try hard not to gossip or listen to it. Whenever I think of my former friend, I wonder where she is and how she is. I wonder how her children turned out and if her marriage survived. I wonder if she overcame her weaknesses and if she regained her health. I pray for her. I pray that she reached out to God and found Him. I pray that she has found some true friends that have come alongside her and really supported her.
I pray for my other former friends too, that they may have not only taken some antacid for their indigestion that day, but realised the cause of it. I pray that God has taken each one of us through this sad time and taught us the lesson of a loose tongue. And I pray that He in His mercy, stamped out the fire we created and sheltered that needy woman from its flames. I pray that God will see my tears as I write this: tears of sorrow and warning for those of us compelled to speak things of others that we should not. Let my tears help put out the fires of yesterday and bring healing to my friend. And I pray that I will never again suffer from verbal indigestion..
© Glenys Robyn Hicks
James 3:1-6 My brethren, be not many masters, knowing that we shall receive the greater condemnation. For in many things we offend all. If any man offend not in word, the same [is] a perfect man, [and] able also to bridle the whole body. Behold, we put bits in the horses’ mouths, that they may obey us; and we turn about their whole body. Behold also the ships, which though [they be] so great, and [are] driven of fierce winds, yet are they turned abouth with a very small helm, whithersoever the governor listeth. Even so the tongue is a little member, and boasteth great things. Behold, how great a matter a little fire kindleth! And the tongue [is] a fire, a world of iniquity: so is the tongue among our members, that it defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire of hell.