I recently had a mom reach out to me with some thoughts and an excellent question that I think is important for us to take a few minutes to think through and then, as always, go to the scriptures for our direction.
“Often as moms, we get frustrated with our kids not obeying and we will find ourselves talking to other ladies about our kids and how they don’t do this or that right. I’m not saying seeking counsel on it but rather fussing about that child and harping on what they do wrong.
I started thinking about it (because I struggle with it) and whether we like to admit it or not, wouldn’t that be gossiping? They are our children, yes, but at the end of the day they are at the essence people and will one day be adults around us. I have struggled a lot with this lately and then feel awful that I pointed out my child’s flaws to others. Through that, I started realizing it might be a form of gossip. What do you think?
I love that this mom is being thoughtful and intentional in her parenting and Christian walk. I also love that she is naming the sin. Often we shy away from being biblically honest about whether or not we are sinning. I think (at least for me) it comes down to pride. My flesh doesn’t want to admit that I’ve sinned, but there is freedom in naming the sin because when we call it out, we can actually deal with it and get rid of it. We humble ourselves and seek forgiveness for it rather than carrying it with us under the guise of “it’s not that bad” or “I wouldn’t call it a sin”
We don’t have to be afraid of calling it what it is because Jesus has already paid for it and when we confront it and ask forgiveness, we have the privilege of experiencing the freedom of Christ’s redemption!
Let’s start by defining what biblical gossip is: biblical gossip is the sin of bearing bad news behind someone’s back out of a bad heart. This functional definition considers the action itself, the content of the corrupt communication, the situation in which it occurs, and perhaps most importantly, the motivations of the people involved.
So the most important question is: When we share negative things about our kids, what is our motivation for sharing? We have to remember that it can be different each time, so we don’t want to give into the temptation to throw a blanket across every instance, but when we find ourselves being tempted to speak negatively to others about our kids we need to ask ourselves some heart probing questions:
Are we saying these things to “vent”? Sometimes we see character weaknesses in our kids that we ourselves actually have and we can find those irritating. Deep down we know that we do these things as well, so we deflect that distaste onto our children. It’s a real eye-opener when those things are revealed in our children, but it’s also very motivating to do something about it! It’s one of the many ways that God uses motherhood to sanctify us.
Are we saying these things to find a solution to a problem? Are we truly seeking counsel with a humble heart and do we have the best interest of our child in mind? Are we asking the right questions?
Is this the right person to talk to? One way to figure that out is to ask ourselves if this person we are talking to is part of the problem or part of the solution. If they aren’t either of those, then it might be wise not to talk with them about it. Honestly, I believe the best person to talk to is our husbands and to do so in private. They are the ones that God has ordained to lead our households. Because this position is God-given, God can give our husbands unique insight and discernment in this area.
The mom who asked the question earlier said, “Often as moms, we get frustrated with our kids not obeying and we will find ourselves talking to other ladies about our kids and how they don’t do this or that right.”
So another question to ask would be: Is this thing we are complaining about a pattern of sin for us or our child?
Has that child sinned against us and instead of dealing with the sin, we essentially get back at them by gossiping about them?
It is our job as parents to deal with sin in our own lives and in the lives of our children. Once sin is present, the enemy can get a foothold within the family. And when it comes to relationships, we are the shepherd of the relationships in our home so it’s up to us to restore fellowship with God, our spouses, and children when we have wronged them and it’s our job to shepherd and guide our children into restoring fellowship with each other, us and God when that fellowship has been broken.
Once that has been made right, we have a responsibility not to bring it up again because it has been forgiven. If we revisit it, we are walking in unforgiveness and feeding bitterness. (Make no mistake, I have been guilty of this, so I speak from experience!)
So what if this is a cycle? What do we do to break the cycle?
Whether it’s a cycle or not, the best action we can take is to commit ourselves to immediately confess to the person we spoke to about our child as well as anyone who was there that heard us.
There is nothing that helps bring change like having to humble ourselves in front of someone else. The other benefit to this is that we are setting a great example for other moms.
And of course, we confess it to the Lord as well (whether we feel like it or not) because we are told by God to “Confess our sins and He will be faithful to forgive us our sins and so cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9
Confession isn’t something that most of us have been encouraged to practice in our everyday lives. We often associate it with humiliation or condemnation (which is not the same as conviction). Conviction actually ultimately feels freeing, condemnation feels overwhelmingly heavy.
When we are convicted, it is God revealing our hearts to us, not us digging around to find sin, but rather letting HIM be the judge. When we confess our sins, we are also confessing our victory. When we confess our sins, we are declaring that Jesus is Lord, that He has paid the price and we are free from the guilt and punishment for sin. This is cause for celebration!
Let’s go back to the topic of gossip.
Many of us have been taught that “if it’s true, it’s not gossip.” But needlessly sharing shameful truths about someone else can be gossip. One biblical phrase for this kind of speech is “a bad report,” such as what Joseph brought against his brothers (Genesis 37:2). Just because someone actually did do something wrong does not mean that we need to, or get to, talk about it with others.
James 1:26 talks about bridling our tongues:
“If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person's religion is worthless.”
Keeping our tongues bridled can be a real struggle if we have not made it a habit, but victory is possible!
1 Corin. 10:13
“No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation, he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.”
When we find ourselves tempted to speak negatively about our kids it might help to boil everything we have talked about into two questions:
“Are these words loving toward the person I’m talking about?”
“Why am I saying this?”
As we do that, we do need to ask God to reveal our hearts to us.
“The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked, who can know it?” (God is the only One who knows it completely)
We let GOD search our hearts. We don’t just assume that our motives are pure, but we also don’t allow ourselves to come under condemnation because we are becoming morbidly introspective, Again, we ask God to reveal our hearts and let HIM do the searching.
David said in Psalm 139:23, 24
“Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts and see if there be any grievous way in me and lead me in the way of everlasting.”
Is it possible to speak negatively about our kids without gossiping? Absolutely. Some ways to help us do that are to:
Only share what is absolutely necessary (Proverbs talks about how “where words are many, sin is not absent” We have less of a chance of sinning with our words if we keep them to a minimum.)
Ask the right questions as opposed to just going on and on about the problem.
It is wise to establish a habit of honoring our kids and treating them as brothers and sisters in the Lord. When it comes to how we speak about them to others we need to remember that these kids will someday be adults and we want to have established a foundation of honor in the relationship.
This doesn't mean that we lay down our authority as a parent. Keeping our parental authority with our kids and honoring them are not mutually exclusive.
As this mom said earlier: “They are our children, yes, but at the end of the day they are at the essence people and will one day be adults around us.”
Our culture has a diminished view of children. They see them as obstacles that get in the way of better things instead of people that will grow up to affect the world around them and souls that will live for eternity. God sees children as valuable.
At its core, this is the difference between a secular worldview and a biblical worldview. The church has been immersed in secular thinking for decades and unfortunately, sometimes we have to address that in our own lives in order to parent biblically.
The scriptures are clear when it comes to how much God cares about what comes out of our mouths. He made us and knows both the incredible blessing and shockingly destructive effect that words can have:
“Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness. For we all stumble in many ways. And if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body. If we put bits into the mouths of horses so that they obey us, we guide their whole bodies as well. Look at the ships also: though they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things.
How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life,[a] and set on fire by hell. For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so. Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and saltwater? Can a fig tree, my brothers, bear olives, or a grapevine produce figs? Neither can a salt pond yield fresh water.”
Notice verse one talks about teachers being judged with greater strictness? Aren’t we essentially teachers to our children? We need to set an example for them.
Moms, we are not going to do this perfectly. We are going to mess up and sometimes we are going mess up badly. That’s the bad news, but we can’t really appreciate the good news until we fully face the bad news. The good news is that because we are believers, we have forgiveness from God, we can forgive one another and be forgiven by one another.
Because of Jesus, the cross, and the resurrection, God can take what Satan means for evil and redeem it for good.
Moms, we have everything we need to avoid gossiping about our children and if we need help dealing with the frustration we sometimes experience with our kids God tells us in James 1:5-8
“If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.”
Before we bring these concerns to anyone else, we need to ask ourselves if we have brought them to God first or if are we leaning on our own understanding.
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
and do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will make straight your paths.
Be not wise in your own eyes;
fear the Lord, and turn away from evil.
It will be healing to your flesh
and refreshment to your bones.”
Sometimes our kids are a mystery to us, but they are NOT a mystery to God. He has created them, He formed them, He knows them inside and out and HE knows best what they need. Let’s take our concerns to Him first.