I was raised in a small southern Oklahoma town. Because there weren’t really other things to do in town on a fall Friday night, most of the community would gather at the high school football game to cheer on our Marietta Indians. During my middle school years, our town had a great football team. Even families who did not have children to watch at the game would load up in cars and travel to the away football games, packing out the visitor stands of other small southern Oklahoma towns.
One Friday night, our family loaded up to head to the football game about 25 minutes away to cheer on our Marietta Indians. My parents had just begun allowing me to sit in the bleachers ‘alone’ with some of my friends from school. I honestly don’t remember who I was sitting with or much about the football game that night. However, the one thing I do remember is the conversation that took place as soon as our family loaded up in our car to head back home.
There was excitement from the thrill of victory because our Marietta Indians had been victorious over the Kingston Redskins, and I couldn’t wait to tell my family something I had heard while sitting in the stands with my friends.
As soon as we were all five in the car, the first words out of my mouth went something like this, “Do y’all know what I heard? _________________ (I don’t even remember the name of the person) is pregnant, and she is just 16.”
The mood in the car went from complete excitement to a bone chilling silence.
The next moment I remember as clearly as if it happened yesterday. My dad very calmly but very sternly turned to face me in the car and said these words, “Holly Ann, those are malicious words. You will not repeat that information again OR. ELSE. The Higle family does not participate in malicious gossip, and this conversation is over.”
I did not really need to know what “OR. ELSE” meant, and I wasn’t really sure of the meaning of malicious. However, knowing my Dad used my middle name and the fact that I had a healthy fear of him, I knew better than to say another word or ask questions.
I remember going home and looking up the word malicious in the dictionary. The Webster’s dictionary described it something like this “ the desire to cause pain, injury, or distress to another.”
Honestly, I know that my young heart had no intention of causing pain or distress to anyone by sharing the information I had learned. However, this was my very first experience that I can remember dealing with the temptation of gossip. I remember the feeling of excitement to share the information with someone who had not yet heard. For some strange reason, girls of all ages find it thrilling to be “in the know” and even more thrilling to be “the first to know.” This doesn’t change much when girls become women.
That was the first of many, many more times in my life when I somehow or another learned information about someone else and had to decide what to do with that information.
In those times of deciding about what to do when I find myself “in the know,” my mind races back to that Friday night from my middle school years when I first began to learn the freedom that comes from not being shackled to the desires of my flesh.
That Friday night, I learned that though my flesh wanted to follow the natural desire to share gossip about other people, true freedom comes when you understand that you don’t have to be shackled to those natural desires and the life consequences that they can bring.
In this case, giving into the desire of my flesh to gossip had the mild consequence of a verbal reprimand from my dad. However, gossip can cost so much more. The price of gossip is often your reputation as a trustworthy friend or an honorable leader.
Ashlynn and Brooklyn, as you walk the halls of your middle school this year, and you find yourself being lured into the temptation of gossip, remember the words of Proverbs 18:8
“Rumors are dainty morsels that sink deep into one’s heart”
Instead of allowing your heart to be fed by gossip and falling into its trap, learn to crave the things of Philippians 4:8.
“Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.”
Rules for life #1: Learn to search for and focus on the good in other people and as you do this you will indeed uncover some of life’s greatest treasures.
When you follow this rule for life, you will find yourself surrounded by people who count you as a trusted friend, and you will have a heart free from the guilt and shame that comes when you speak words that hurt another person.
Friends and a heart free of guilt and shame are indeed two of life’s greatest treasures.