I just finished reading “Listen” by Rene Gutteridge. Here’s the back copy: “The quaint, close-knit community of Marlo was the ideal place to live . . . until someone started posting private conversations online for everyone to read, word-for-word. Now it’s neighbor against neighbor, friend against friend, as careless comments and hurtful accusations turn the town upside down. Violence and paranoia escalate, and the police scramble to find the person responsible before more people get hurt, or even killed.”
It sounded intriguing AND it’s available for free download to Kindle on Amazon.com. Gutteridge has written more than a dozen Christian novels and has a great reputation, so I gave it a try. Wow.
Not only did I enjoy the story and appreciate the solid writing, this book made me think. It made me think long and hard about what I say when I’m speaking privately. Would I want my conversations to be posted for all the world to read? Is something somehow less cruel if the person it’s about never hears it? No. And again, no.
Have you ever said something in the privacy of your home, to your spouse, your best friend or a family member that you would cringe to hear repeated? We discussed this in my Sunday School class and agreed that we’d all done it. We also agreed that there are times when you really need to talk about someone else. Maybe you need to discuss a challenging employee. Maybe you need to talk about feeling persecuted by someone. Maybe you need to talk about disturbing changes you’ve been noticing in someone. So when is it okay to say things that could be seen as cruel or unkind? We decided that the difference is in talking about an issue with the intent to resolve it and just talking about an issue to talk about it. “Did you see how fat Lucy has gotten?” is a long way from “Lucy seems to have put on some weight. I think she’s really struggling in her marriage–what can we do to help?”
I’ve felt convicted about gossip before. I’ve tried to do better. This time I’m really going to do it. The Lenten season is nearly upon us. This is a time for reflection, self-examination and repentance. I plan to spend some time listening to myself–and imaging how I would feel if my words were broadcast for everyone to hear.