Trash talk: People become what they think

Posted: Friday, April 22, 2005

The troubled grandmother who called was alarmed about a decision by a major television station in her area to start airing a tabloid-type talk show known for showing people at their worst, at a time when children were likely to be watching.

After she described the show to me, I shared her concern and advised her to change channels or turn off her TV at that time and notify the station of her decision to do so.

Children, however, aren't the only victims of the trash talking of our time.

In Proverbs 23:7, Solomon said we become what we think, so continually focusing on the real or imaginary faults of others endangers us all.

People who enjoy trashing others have been around for a long time and Bible writers advise us to avoid them.

Paul told those in the church at Ephesus that their slander of others was grieving God, and called for kindness rather than criticism to characterize their conversations.

Peter saw malicious gossip as an indication of spiritual infancy. Many who constantly attack the character of other people believe their destructive work is a mark of maturity, but Peter saw it as kid stuff.

It's impossible to believe and say the worst about others and escape emotional damage to ourselves.

According to the Bible, we're to always look for the best in others. Rejecting this clear command of Scripture contributes to a critical attitude that will result in habitually emphasizing the real or imaginary faults of others.

Those who give themselves to this negative work will invoke the law of sowing and reaping which promises to deliver trash to the world's trash peddlers.

How then shall we respond to those who trash others?

We can refuse to listen to their sordid tales.

C.H. Spurgeon, the highly respected and still often quoted 19th century English minister, wrote:

"Let us be very careful not to believe rumors about good people. If there are no believers in lies, there will be a poor market for falsehoods."

A brokenhearted woman shared the reasons for her tears with me. She was upset over the attitudes of the people from her church with whom she socialized because they spent most of their time together complaining about their church and pastor.

This was affecting her marriage, her family and her faith.

Times together that should have been enjoyable and uplifting were given to rehashing negative conversations recalled from their last meeting and adding new ones.

Though this grieving woman refused to take part in these slander sessions, she was being adversely affected by hearing this crowd trash those she respected.

What could she do?

She could insist that her friends stop trashing people in their frequent gatherings for fellowship and inform them that if this didn't happen she would find new friends.

In his book, "How To Win Over Depression," Tim Lahaye says, "Avoid the complainer, the griper, the critic; most of all avoid imitating them. Negativism, pessimism, griping, criticism and gossip are not only harmful but contagious.

"In fact, you reinforce them in your mind every time you verbalize them. Keep your conversation and your mind positive at all times."

Roger Campbell is an author, radio broadcaster and newspaper columnist from Waterford, Mich.

He was a pastor for 22 years and has been a guest speaker in Alaska churches from Anchorage to Homer.

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