Pirahna Pond and Gossip Graveyard

Pirahna Pond and Gossip Graveyard

Communities are made up of people, and these people meet at conversation crossroads.

Simply put, conversation crossroads are places where people talk and tell what they know. You probably know that God cares about people, but did you know that the conversations we have matter as much to God as the people we have them with or about? The Apostle Paul zeros in on this issue in Ephesians 4:29—5:2.

I’ll condense those verses so you can more clearly see the commandments they contain:

  • No evil talk out of your mouth
  • No words that tear down
  • No words empty of grace
  • No gossip; no slander; no malice

I want you to come on a trip with me and visit two conversational crossroads. The first is Piranha Pond and the second is Gossip Graveyard.

Piranha Pond

On the surface, Piranha Pond looks like your average recreational lake. You can swim in it, fish in it, and boat on it, but unbeknownst to the casual observer, this pond is deadly.

It is teeming with ferocious fish called piranhas. Piranhas are beautiful from the side, a silvery blue color. They are oval from tip to tip and flat and thin from gill to gill. Their average length is about the length of the human tongue.

From the side, piranhas might resemble a big, blue guppy, but from the front, you get a very different impression.

Chances are though, that you’ll never come face-to-face with one. You’ll never see them directly in front of you until it’s too late. And only then will you discover that they have very strong jaws and their teeth are like spikes, the bottom ones fitting between the top ones like shearing scissors. This gives them a strong grip and tearing power. Head on they aren’t pretty to look at; they’re simply effective and deadly.

I have a college professor friend in Nashville who keeps a piranha in his office. He tells me that when you isolate piranhas, they lose their aggressiveness. You see, piranhas usually travel in schools—piranha packs. And they team up to prey on the weak. When they see a floundering fish, they swarm. Any hint of weakness, any sign of vulnerability, any signal of struggle, and it’s a feeding frenzy.

Living in community is tough enough for weak and injured people, but Piranha Pond isn’t just tough—it’s deadly. You may want to steer clear of Piranha Pond if you’ve recently been divorced or fired from your job. You’ll want to stay out of the water if you don’t measure up to the Joneses or if your self-esteem is fragile. And failure? The piranhas can smell it a mile away, so don’t even stand on the shore if you’ve failed at something.

But piranhas have also been known to attack the strong. And when they attack the strong, the bigger, the better. They can also reduce a healthy person to bones in a matter of minutes. There are lots of skeletons at the bottom of Piranha Pond.

The scariest thing is that piranha ponds are everywhere. They’re as small as two people with cell phones, a casual conversation over coffee, a front seat, a back room, a church lobby.

Yet some of them are as large as a massive institution, a powerful corporation, or a misguided country. Thanks to technology, the piranhas in the ponds are plugged in, hooked up, and networked.

Let me let you in on a little secret, though. For all their ferociousness, they’re actually very insecure. Confront them and they’ll back down. Get them alone and they lose their aggressiveness. They are actually sad little creatures with very strong jaws and a voracious appetite that they don’t know how to fill.

They find security only in packs of those who think like they think.

The Piranha Pond—where often is heard a disparaging word, and the waters are bloody all day.

Gossip Graveyard

Come with me to another conversational crossroad. It’s called Gossip Graveyard.

It’s very quiet here. Not even a whisper can be heard. It’s surrounded by a fence, and no phone lines run in or out. Worn out news is buried here.

Take a stroll around Gossip Graveyard and read the tombstones. Each tells a story.

Here lies a rumor stopped dead in its tracks by the truth.
I love the story behind this one. A new employee threatened a long-time employee. Rumors were started about how she got the job. A third party, a real truth lover, confronted the issue head-on and laid the rumor to rest.

Here lies the attack on the character of a godly man.
This one is strange. A guy was in the wrong place at the wrong time and somebody tried to nail him—but his friends got to the bottom of the deal and cleared his name.

Here lies a dark secret, a past sin, confessed, forgiven and forgotten.
I bet a pastor put that one to rest. What that person did and repented of will go to the grave unmentioned by the pastor who helped a person make it right with God.

Here lies idle phone chatter.
Two people decided to change their topic of conversation for the better.

Here lies a razor sharp-wit that had specialized in sarcasm.
That one is easy enough to figure out.

The faithful patrons of Gossip Graveyard quietly brought these issues here and buried them and walked away.

Oh, they could have thrown this stuff into Piranha Pond and fueled the feeding frenzy. Instead, they did the decent and right thing and gave it a decent burial.

The patrons of Gossip Graveyard love seeing leaders who are respected, vulnerable people cared for gently, touchy situations handled face-to-face, and squabbles quickly settled.

And these patrons may be quiet, but they are brave. They’ve been known to wrestle a juicy piece of meat from the jaws of the piranha. They’ve even at times confronted piranhas face-to-face and have the marks to show for it.

And just as every community has a piranha pond, every community has a gossip graveyard. And the two places couldn’t be more different.

The moment of choice comes to all of us. We stand daily at conversational crossroads where we have two paths to travel with two destinations: Piranha Pond or Gossip Graveyard.

Today’s post is an excerpt from Dancing with the Law: The Ten Commandments.

Comments

  1. Well said! Evil speaking, gossip, and busybody activity has brought great reproach on the Church and Christianity, in addition to the character assassination of people. It is a terrible distraction interrupting the mission of the Church. I like what John Wesley said, if there were no hearers of evil there would be no speakers of evil. God bless those good souls in the Church who declare the truth in the face of gossip and evil speaking.

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