GOSSIP AND WHISPERING (THE DAY I “LEFT MY WIFE”!)
The Bible says:
The tongue is a small part of the body, and yet it boasts of great things. Behold, how great a forest is set aflame by such a small fire (James 3:5).
A simple little incident that happened to me has made that verse very meaningful. I was once speaking to a large gathering. During one of the breaks, a conferee came up to greet me.
“Hi, Henry, haven’t seen you in a long time. Is Eva [my wife] with you?”
“No,” I replied. “I left her….” At that moment someone else interrupted by asking a question. I never finished my sentence concerning my wife.
Later that day, a friend’s wife approached me and said:
“What’s this I hear about you and Eva? You’re separated?”
“Separated?” I was astonished. “Where did you hear that?”
“One of the ladies told me. She heard that you told one of the men that you’d left Eva.”
“No, we’re getting along just fine,” I replied.
“That’s strange,” she said. “I’ve heard it from several women.”
THIS IS WHAT HAPPENED
It took me a while to think over my conversations of the day. Then I recalled my brief encounter with the man who asked if Eva was with me.
This is what happened. When I said, “I left Eva…” and turned to respond to someone else, he concluded that I didn’t want to talk about it. He was troubled and disappointed that I would be speaking about family life when I was separated from my wife.
When he went to his hotel room, his wife was there. So he said to her:
“Did you know that Henry has left Eva?”
His wife asked someone else about it, and so the rumor got started.
Here are the facts. Eva and I were invited to go cruising on a friend’s yacht. We were having a grand time enjoying the beauty and peacefulness of the Bahamas.
It came time for me to go to this conference, but it is a long, hard journey from Miami to San Francisco, where the meeting was held.
Our friends urged Eva to stay in the Bahamas with them. I would have liked to stay myself, but we agreed that Eva would stay.
This man wanted to know if Eva was with me. My reply was interrupted by someone else, so all he heard was: “I left her….” I never got to finish my sentence: “…on a yacht in the Bahamas.”
TAKING ON A RUMOR
The next time I took the platform to speak, I told the entire assembly about the incident as an example of how communications can get fouled up.
Apparently, some people didn’t believe me. A year later, in Portland, a minister very gingerly brought up the subject:
“Did you leave your wife?”
THREE YEARS LATER…
Three years later, an associate of mine reported this incident to me. One of his secretaries asked him:
“How can you be associated with Dr. Brandt when he and his wife are separated?”
Behold, how great a forest is set aflame by such a small fire!
AN EDUCATOR IS CHARGED!
The dean of a college was called into a board meeting to answer charges that at night he was seen prowling around the windows of a women’s dormitory.
He was told that there were a dozen witnesses who reported his behavior. It wasn’t just one incident. They reported he was seen there regularly.
The dean was flabbergasted. He insisted that there was no truth to the reports. But how could a dozen eyewitnesses be wrong?
Then it dawned on him. The garage that housed the school cars was located behind the women’s dormitory. This dean frequently went out at night to speak at various meetings. He used a school car for transportation.
When the board investigated, they found out that his facts were true. One night, after he put the car in the garage, a student was looking out her window and saw the dean walking behind the dormitory.
She was amazed and told her roommate that she saw the dean window peeping.
They told some other students, who, in turn, kept an eye on the back of the dorm to see if it happened again. Sure enough, they spotted him behind the dormitory week after week.
The news spread rapidly throughout the campus and in letters back home to parents: our dean is a window peeper.
We tend to be aghast when we learn that someone has stolen something or committed adultery, but we little realize how great a fire such a small member as the tongue can set by whispering and gossiping.
“DON’T TELL” INFORMATION
One day Margaret listened to some “don’t tell” information about Sandra, her best friend. The informer was supposed to be one of Sandra’s closest friends, too. A few days later, Sandra asked Margaret point-blank:
“Did you hear that I stepped out on my boyfriend last Saturday night?”
Not in the habit of lying, Margaret was forced by the truth to answer: “Yes.”
Sandra was stunned.
“Who told you, Margaret? It’s important that I know.”
Caught between two loyalties, Margaret wished she had not listened to this whispering. Now, it seemed that no matter what she said or didn’t say, Margaret stood to lose a friend. That’s the danger of secret, don’t-say-I-told-you conversations. They lead to strife, tension, and severed relations.
Note what Solomon wrote:
The words of a whisperer are like dainty morsels, and they go down into the innermost parts of the body (Proverbs 18:8).
For lack of wood the fire goes out, and where there is no whisperer, contention quiets down (Proverbs 26:20).
Accordingly, whatever you have said in the dark shall be heard in the light, and what you have whispered in the inner rooms shall be proclaimed upon the housetops (Luke 12:3).
The Bible says that hasty words, a fiery tongue, concealing your true thoughts, complaining, slandering, lying, deceit, and whispering are unacceptable to God.
Your own sense of self-respect depends in part on your knowledge of how you manage your own words.