This past December I did what every insane parent does and took my kids to do their own Christmas shopping. I prefer avoiding crowds but knew I couldn’t this time. So, I took a deep breath and said a quick prayer, knowing this experience would likely test my patience, and set out to brave the chaos. As expected, Target was especially busy.
My three kids and I fell into step behind another family as we slowly maneuvered our way through the store. The husband was pushing a toddler in the cart while his pregnant wife walked alongside them. I didn’t mean to eavesdrop but I couldn’t help overhearing their conversation. They were loudly talking about all the reasons they dislike their jobs while sharing private information about their coworkers.
As we were crossing between aisles, an elementary aged girl accidentally cut off their cart and, even though she turned to apologize, this couple got very angry. With their small son in the front of the shopping cart, and my 3 young children standing behind them, a stream of unpleasant words began flying out of their mouths.
I was shocked by their behavior and immediately began putting some distance between us. In the 10 minutes we had been following them neither of these adults had anything nice to say to or about anyone else. I don’t know what their story is, or how life experiences may have hardened their perspective, but I do know that their gossiping and complaining had made them very unpleasant.
We quickly finished our shopping and headed home. As we all piled in the car I went from feeling angry at this couple to feeling sorry for them. I may not be as loud or brash as them but I sin in the same ways. I don’t mean to gossip but I still do it. I don’t try to complain but it still happens. We don’t often talk about these sins and we rarely hold each other accountable to them, but these qualities make us completely undesirable and altogether untrustworthy.
What we say to and about other people is not a reflection of them, it’s a reflection of us.
Using unnecessary words to harm another person is a direct result of our own pride, and being critical of our circumstances blinds us to God’s blessings. When we gossip we are destroying relationships and reputations. When we complain we are doubting God’s goodness.
We are surrounded by difficult people. We experience difficult situations. But God uses these to teach us how to look and act more like Christ. To prune us. To prepare us. Instead of responding sinfully to them, we should respond with a simple (although, not easy) act of worship… being thankful. Gossip and complaining cannot coexist with a heart of thankfulness.
“…let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe.” Hebrews 12:28b