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discretion gossip

Privacy Matters

Wednesday’s Column: Third’s Words

Gary III

Gary Pollard

Patients’ information in the US is protected by HIPAA. Specifically, “The Rule requires appropriate safeguards to protect the privacy of personal health information, and sets limits and conditions on the uses and disclosures that may be made of such information without patient authorization. The Rule also gives patients rights over their health information, including rights to examine and obtain a copy of their health records, and to request corrections” (hhs.gov).

We expect and demand that our privacy be protected when it comes to healthcare (and personal information in general). If that trust is breached, we may consider taking legal action against the trust breaker.

When it comes to our marriages, do we extend that same courtesy to our spouses? Or do we vent our frustrations about them to anyone who listens?

When it comes to personal information shared in confidence, do we extend that same courtesy to our Christian family? Or do we share that info with those in our personal circle?

When it comes to sensitive information we may have about someone in the church (or anywhere!), do we treat them with the same level of respect and discretion that we expect from those in the medical field or information technology fields? There are some exceptions to this principle (as common sense dictates), but we sometimes find ourselves sharing or listening to information we have no business sharing or consuming.

In short, if we expect this level of respect and discretion from the professional world, should we not do the same for those in God’s family?

“Whoever goes about slandering reveals secrets; therefore do not associate with a simple babbler” (Prov. 20:19, ESV). 

 

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communication gossip

No Answer

Friday’s Column: Supplemental Strength

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Brent Pollard

In December of 1971, the UK band, Electric Light Orchestra, released an eponymously titled album. In the United States, however, we know this album by a different name. Why is that? In the US, ELO released their music through United Artists Records. Someone from UAR had attempted to contact ELO’s manager to ascertain what the album’s title for its US release. Unable to reach him, the UAR representative had jotted down the words, “no answer.”

The misinterpretation of the message led to the unintentional titling of ELO’s first US release.  And so, in early 1972, Americans could buy the new British band’s first studio-recorded album,  No Answer1 This album mishap is an amusing example of miscommunication. When such miscommunication takes place in personal relationships, however, the results more often are destructive.

Relationships can be severed because some miscommunication led to an argument. Within such cases, the injured party failed to discern the message of the perceived injurer. Sadly, they don’t go to that person, and on some occasions they go to a third party, sympathetic to their interests. At this point, the one initially misunderstood has two people angry at him or her without cause. Perhaps, in response, this misunderstood person will likewise go to yet another party, someone understanding of his or her position in the matter. It is incredible to see how many people can quickly become embroiled in something that ultimately is only a misunderstanding between two people!

New Testament scripture addresses this problem and provides a solution. Unfortunately, it may be one of the most ignored precepts of Christian doctrine. Jesus Himself gave this precept as recorded in Matthew’s Gospel (Matthew 18.15-17). Whenever you feel that another party has done something injurious to you, you are to go to that individual privately to resolve the problem. If that person does not listen to you, then you are permitted to bring one or two others with you in another attempt to be reconciled to him or her. If that fails, then you have permission to bring the matter to the attention of the greater community. When the community (in this instance, the assembly or church) encourages that person to reconcile with the other party, and he or she refuses a third time, then one can sever that relationship formally. One does not break ties before the extension of three opportunities for reconciliation, however.

So, the next time someone says or does something that you do not understand, give them the benefit of the doubt. Go to the one you feel has offended you first. Do not gossip about the “offender” to another. Do what you can to fix the problem as soon as you can. No answer, on the other hand, is not an acceptable solution.

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A later ELO album (1977)

REFERENCE

1 Mikkelson, David. “Electric Light Orchestra’s No Answer.” Snopes.com, Snopes Media Group Inc., 19 Dec. 2012, www.snopes.com/fact-check/no-answer/.

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gossip Neal Pollard Pollard blog tongue

The Haste Of The Hermandads

Monday’s Column: Neal at the Cross

pollard

Neal Pollard

In the 1100s, in an effort to protect travelers going from northern Spain over the Pyrenees to Santiago de Compostela in Galicia (Dogs of God, Reston, 50), a military force known as the hermandads (“the brotherhood”) was organized.  Soon, these vigilantes spread across Spain and offered themselves as protectors of roads and merchants.  Eventually appointed as a national police force who could collect taxes and prevent insurrection in every municipality, they would go on to exterminate untold numbers of Muslims, Jews, and other “enemies of the state” during the Middle Ages.  Reston mentions an unsettling “right” granted to the hermandads in the 15th Century, during the famous reign of Isabella and Ferdinand.  He writes, “In a curious turnabout, executions took place first, and trials were held afterwards” (51).

Given our country’s constitutional concept of “innocent until proven guilty,” this practice seems both backward and barbaric.  How useful is a trial to present facts about a case after the defendant has been executed?  What if the deceased was found innocent? What if there was no proof of guilt?  Of course, the “facts” of every case incredibly supported the punitive action that preceded it.

While we may find such a practice appalling, how often do we do the same with our tongues?  Through rash anger, reckless gossip, and rabid prejudice, we can serve as judge, jury, and executioner of the reputation and actions of another.  How often do we jump to conclusions and assassinate another’s character, but later revelations prove our actions both premature and unjustifiable?  Unfortunately, the damage having been done, nothing done by way of reparation can fully undo the effects upon the victim.

What we need to see is the spiritual danger we face who “execute” before “trial.”  Solomon wrote, “He who gives an answer before he hears, it is folly and shame to him” (Prov. 18:13).  A few verses later, he says, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue…” (21a).  That New Testament “wisdom writer,” James, adds, “But no one can tame the tongue; it is a restless evil and full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the likeness of God;  from the same mouth come both blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be this way” (3:8-10).

Be very careful!  Even when we think we have the facts about another, let us post a guard outside the door of our lips (cf. Ps. 141:3).  Better to deliberate and reserve judgment than to execute before the trial has been held!

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6 Things About Gossip That I Don’t Like

Neal Pollard

As masterfully and humorously portrayed in the 15th episode of the first season of the Andy Griffith Show (“Those Gossipin’ Men”), gossip can seemingly appear, full-blown, out of thin air. It can be personally hurtful, but it’s part of the territory of living and breathing.  Here are 6 things I particularly dislike about the ugly specter of gossip.

  • It’s GallingIt “reveals secrets” (Prov. 11:13). It separates friends (Prov. 16:28), yeah even “intimate friends” (Prov. 17:9). While cowardly, it still takes a lot of nerve!
  • It’s Obstructive. Billing itself as “helpful” and “instructive,” it usually serves the opposite purpose. It “reveals secrets” (Prov. 20:19) and is the hallmark of idle busybodies (1 Tim. 5:13).
  • It’s Spurious. As previously mentioned, gossip is as apt to be false and inaccurate as it is to be trustworthy.  Even if there is a grain of truth, it can have an admixture of inaccuracy blended in.  Tragically, it is often received as the truth and nothing but the truth.
  • It’s Sinful. Find it listed alongside “strife,” “jealousy,” “slanders,” and “arrogance” (2 Cor. 12:20). God calls the spreader of such “a fool” (Prov. 10:18). It’s an “evil weapon” (cf. Isa. 32:7) and “stubborn rebellion” (Jer. 6:28). See also Romans 1:29, 2 Timothy 3:3, and Titus 2:3.
  • It’s Inconsiderate. Few gossips would want to be treated the way they treat their subjects (Luke 6:31).  Repeatedly, Christians are urged to “be kind to one another” (Eph. 4:32). We’re to love each other without hypocrisy and “be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor” (Rom. 12:9-10).  Gossiping is rarely wrapped in forethought and careful circumspection.  It’s not “friendly fire.” It’s just fire.
  • It’s Presumptuous. Gossip is acting with entitlement, believing that it is fair and right to spread (whether true or false) information about the subject thereof. The gossip believes himself or herself qualified to share something about someone else, and such are usually mortified if the tale is traced back to them.

Yet, indignation should be tempered with realization.  Few have so mastered the tongue that they are above the fray we mention here.  Let’s be convicted to practice saying good and kind things behind each other’s backs. Remember to investigate before you propagate, and even then only carefully and prayerfully. Usually, prayer and care will render the “juicy tidbit” dead on the floor of your mind, safely unspoken and incapable of doing any harm. Remember the famous words of 19th Century Michigan poet Will Carleton: “Boys flying kites haul in their white winged birds; You can’t do that way when you’re flying words. Careful with fire, is good advice we know Careful with words, is ten times doubly so. Thoughts unexpressed may sometimes fall back dead; But God Himself can’t kill them when they’re said.”

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INSTRUCTIONS FOR PRIVATE OFFENSES

Neal Pollard

The Son of God gives specific instructions for what to do when a spiritual family member sins. Jesus clearly says, “If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother. But if he does not listen to you, take one or two more with you, so that by the mouth of two or three witnesses every fact may be confirmed. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.” Notice the Divine pattern. 

  • Perpetration (15a)–“If you brother sins.” This is what initiates the situation.
  • Presentation (15b)–“Go and show him his fault in private.” Paul would teach this later (Gal. 6:1). Notice that this is to be done privately.
  • Aspiration (15c)–“If he listens to you, you have won your brother.” Ideally, this is where the matter should end.
  • Escalation (16-17)–Jesus tells one what to do if a sinner refuses to listen. Start by taking one or two. If that does not work, then tell it to the church.
  • Repudiation (18)–If all three of these approaches fail to win the sinner, then you reject them.

Tragically, we very often disobey Jesus’ instructions about this and fail to understand that rebelling against His commandment then makes us a sinner, too.  How often does it happen that a person, rather than dealing directly with the sinning brother, tells someone else? Then, that someone tells another. Soon, a whole group or even the whole church knows about the sin. Often, something that was private and even between just two people is made public by gossipers who continue to spread the matter. In some cases, those who hear and spread the matter never even speak to the offender. This prevents the sinner from being aware of who knows about it or being able to reconcile. It can even be the case that the sinner has repented and handled the matter with the original offender, but now others are brought into the matter after the fact. Those who have come to hear about the situation treat the sinner “as a Gentile and a tax collector,” without ever once speaking to them about it. Rifts form and relationships are affected. 

When we fail to do things God’s way, we will make matters worse. May we consider passages like Mark 7:21-23, where Jesus places “big” sins like “fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries, deeds of coveting and wickedness” alongside “little” sins like “deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, and foolishness.” Jesus’ analysis is that “all” these things are “evil” and “defile the man.”

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What Are We Saying About The Church?

Neal Pollard

Recently, in an excellent lesson about gossip, the teacher recounted an incident I, and many others, could echo from the background of our own experience either in ministry or our personal lives. A mother asked her wayward daughter why she no longer was a member of the church. Her convicting reply, “The way that you always talked about the church, why would I be?” The way this daughter heard her parents talk about the church, she concluded the church was full of hypocrisy, flaws, and inadequacy. She was simply modeling what she heard them say throughout the years.

I’m thankful for the sound counsel we received well before we had children. We were advised never to speak ill of the church in front of our children, to run down elders, deacons, preachers, and other members. Knowing Kathy, she would have done this intuitively. For me, it was extremely helpful with my impetuous nature. Even whispered words in the front seat of the car, going home from church, will inevitably be heard by the little ears in the back seat (the same is true of the dinner table and other times the family is together). We may be blowing off steam, we may not have deep vendettas against the object of our criticism and complaint, and we may soon forget what we’ve said, but impressionable ears and hearts may internalize the words and materialize the message with their deeds and lives. 

The attitude, relationship, and loyalty our children have toward the church is most shaped and determined, for good or ill, by our example as parents. What will help us speak well of the Lord’s church? 

  • Remember who conceived of it, from nature to organization to purpose, etc. (Eph. 3:9-11).
  • Remember whose it is (Mat. 16:18-19; Eph. 5:33).
  • Remember our mission to bring others into it and that our home is our primary mission field (Mat. 28:19).
  • Remember how Jesus feels about the church (1 Tim. 3:15; Eph. 5:25).
  • Remember that the church is the location of the saved and we should do all we can to help our children make up that number (Acts 2:47; 1 Cor. 12:13).
  • Remember all that the Bible says God seeks to accomplish through the church: growth (Eph. 4:16), His glory (Eph. 3:20-21), and His grace (2 Cor. 8:1), among so many other things.

We may struggle to see our family harbor grudges and hard feelings against the church. Many factors may contribute to that, but we should begin with ourselves. What are we saying about the Lord’s bride? What is our attitude toward her? I cannot imagine that anything is more impactful than that, and that is probably the thing we can most control! May our family remember that our theme song, concerning the church, is, “I love Thy kingdom, Lord!” Surely this will influence how they feel about her, too. 

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gossip self-examination Uncategorized

Mind Your Biscuits

Neal Pollard

A church marquee read, “If we could mind our biscuits, life would be gravy.” As somebody who loves to make biscuits, I appreciate the sentiment. Only a few ingredients–self-rising flour, shortening, and milk (sweet and/or butter). A simple, consistent temperature (I prefer 450 degrees). The time is pretty precise–10-13 minutes. The rack placement is fairly straightforward and there are only a few slots to choose from anyway. But biscuits are still burned. Why? Typically, it’s because we’re distracted. Maybe we’re multi-tasking. Maybe we get caught on another errand, out of the kitchen.  Sometimes, only the smell or maybe the smoke alarm jolts them back to the biscuit business at hand.

What does it mean? Why would a church put it on their sign?  Obviously, it is not a cooking tip! However, it is sage advice for our interpersonal relationships.

When gossip is being dispensed, do you walk (run!) away? Do you show the gossiper that you disapprove (cf. Prov. 25:23)? Or does it distract, amuse, and pique your interest? Be careful about your biscuits!

When it comes to your spouse, do you work on being content, engaged, and fulfilled in that God-ordained relationship? Do you work on wooing them and keeping them won? Or do your eyes, heart, and mind drift toward another’s? Be careful about your biscuits (Prov. 6:26-29)!

When there are church problems, do you feel the need to make your contribution, taking sides, or even fueling the fire? Be careful that the fire you are fueling doesn’t burn your own biscuits (1 Cor. 1:10; Psa. 133; Prov. 16:28; 17:9; etc.).

When it comes to how others raise their kids, are you a ready, open fount of wisdom which you are eager to spill on the public square? Do you have the answer regardless of whether you’ve even heard the question? Be careful about your own biscuits!

There’s nothing like the satisfaction of pulling out those huge, cathead biscuits with just the right color of light brown on top. When you peel the top off of it, it’s flaky but light. It certainly beats blackened, burned, inedible and charred carbs that are unfit for consumption. Not even good gravy can cover that problem!  Let’s be careful to examine ourselves (2 Cor. 13:5)!  This pleases the Lord (cf. Mat. 7:1ff).

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gossip tongue Uncategorized

The Assassins In Our Midst

Neal Pollard

They are on the loose and nobody even seems to be hunting for them. They have struck countless times. They strike daily. Yet, they will never make the nightly news or the local paper. They do their deeds with seeming impunity. At times, their actions cause the weak and fearful to simply follow or at least stand by and say nothing. While they may escape the earthly courts of justice, they will give an account in the heavenly one.  Who are these brutal killers?

Some strike at the personal level, assassinating the character of a brother or sister in Christ through gossip, slander, and backbiting.  This type of assassin takes the good name and reputation of their victim and shreds it. Sometimes what they say is true but it should not be said. Usually, it is said in the absence of the object who is left unable to defend or explain. As often, what they say may be untrue, distorted, or crafted in such a way as to portray the object in the most unflattering or unsavory light. With practice, these assassins can seemingly wield their deadly weapon with seemingly seared conscience. Whether careless or calculated, they fire their darts with blind indifference. They leave a wake of carnage.

Some strike at the good works of a congregation, school, or program of work.  With what appears to be little interest in fact-finding, for motives often unknown and perplexing, they often slander, misrepresent, or inconsistently apply rules they themselves cannot and do not live up to. At times, they make themselves the judge and create the standards whereby others are deemed fit or unfit to survive their assaults. But in doing this, they are hopelessly inconsistent. They face the prospect of facing merciless judgment, they themselves having been merciless.

Some strike without respect of person. Their tongues are unbridled, their passions and self-control are unchecked, and their disposition is volatile and ungodly.  They are quick to fire, and their speech spews venom and acid.  Most tragic is when they aver that they are speaking as a Christian or as an ambassador for Christ. People who witness their cold and brutal attacks are left to assume that such is what constitutes Christianity.  Repulsed, the world violently turns away and vehemently reacts against any and all efforts to teach even difficult and sensitive subjects the world is prone to reject.

James unapologetically condemns such careless slapdash strikes!  He says, “Even so the tongue is a little member and boasts great things. See how great a forest a little fire kindles! And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity. The tongue is so set among our members that it defiles the whole body, and sets on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire by hell. For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and creature of the sea, is tamed and has been tamed by mankind. But no man can tame the tongue. It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our God and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the similitude of God. Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be so” (James 3:5-10). Before loading up and taking aim at someone, may we consider the eternal implications of it. Thankfully, such assassins can be reformed and retrained through remorse and repentance. May it be!

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