The Skinny on Gossip and Manipulation
About the Guest
On today's broadcast, Martha Peace, author of the Christian bestseller The Excellent Wife, sheds some light on a woman's weakness for gossip and manipulation.
On today’s broadcast, Martha Peace, author of the Christian bestseller The Excellent Wife, sheds some light on a woman’s weakness for gossip and manipulation.
The Skinny on Gossip and Manipulation
Bob: Do you have a tendency to open your mouth and -- well, sometimes say too much? Are you prone to gossip? Here's some counsel from Martha Peace.
Martha: Jesus gave very clear instruction with what to do if someone is sinning. You go to them privately in love and do it gently and Galatians 6:1 says, "with the motive to restore them to a right relationship with God and others." So you just do that privately, and then if they repent and stop doing whatever it is they're doing wrong, then you've won your brother, Jesus said, and it's the end of the matter. Nobody else needs to even know about it.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Wednesday, January 17th. Our host is the president of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. Martha Peace is going to help us think biblically today about some of the common challenges women face.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today, thanks for joining us. Do you think there are certain sins …
Bob: Now, wait, let me finish the question.
Dennis: I know the question.
Bob: You know there are certain sins.
Dennis: I do.
Bob: Do you think there are some that men are more prone toward …
Dennis: … uh-huh …
Bob: And certain sins that women are more prone toward?
Dennis: Yes. I'll not comment on the women, because we have a guest who -- we'll let her do that. I think men uniquely struggle with pride, and I'm not saying women don't have a pride problem, but I think men, in terms of being self-reliant, in terms of thinking they're in charge, they're in control …
Dennis: … that's right -- that they know what's best, and I can handle it myself. I think more men deal with that than women.
Bob: I guess the truth is God made us to be different as men and women, and it shouldn't surprise us that those differences mean we interact with our own flesh differently as men and women, right?
Dennis: No, but we do need to deal with sin, and that's the bottom line of it. Now, I'm going to ask our guest, Martha Peace, who is a clinical counselor, she has written a number of books including one of Barbara's favorites, "The Excellent Wife." What do you think, Martha? Are women more susceptible to certain sins than men?
Martha: I think so. Women -- a lot of women have a problem with fear and worry, but they also have a pride problem, too, and it can be manifested in different ways, but they can be just as arrogant as a man can be.
Bob: Well, certainly, pride is central to the sin patterns in all of our lives, but I guess when I do stop and think about differences between men and women, you mentioned fear. I think of women really wanting to control their environment. That may be born out of fear.
When you sat down to write a new book that you've written, which is called "Damsels in Distress," you really pulled back and said, "What are some of the besetting sins that befall women," didn't you?
Martha: I did, and because of being a biblical counselor, I counsel women all the time, and some of these problems come up. And so I just, over the years, have developed material to be able to teach them the doctrine from the Scriptures and then how to practically apply it to their life.
And so I just realized one day, you know, I've got some, I thought, really good material that would be helpful. And so I just put it all together under the umbrella of different problems that women have.
And when I was young, we had problems, the women had problems. Now they have issues, and, you know, that's ever so much more important than a problem is. But whatever you call it, we need to learn how to discern about these things and ourselves and others and then how to honor the Lord in our response.
Dennis: Martha, the book is pretty thin.
Dennis: Does that mean women just have a few issues?
Martha: Well, if I had included a chapter on the problem of men, it would have been really big.
Dennis: That's a good comeback.
Martha: But I did write "The Excellent Wife," which is a lot bigger.
Dennis: There's the problem with men, there you go.
Martha: That's right.
Dennis: Well, let's talk about the first issue that women deal with that you talk about in your book, and I believe that's gossip, right?
Dennis: I'm glad you wrote about this, truthfully. Not because of women. I just don't hear much Christian teaching on this subject in any regard.
Martha: See, what we do, we pass on gossip in a very pious way, like prayer requests.
Bob: Yeah, "We need to pray for so-and-so," yeah.
Martha: Yes, and it may be, when you slander somebody or you're passing on a bad report about somebody, it may be you're telling the truth. Now, you may think you're telling the truth, and it's really not accurate, but even if you are, if you have a bad report to pass on about someone, the only person you should tell is that person. Go to them privately.
Bob: And this is how I have always tested my own heart when it comes to gossip. I've asked myself the question, would I share with my friend, and would I say, "Let me tell you what's going on with Dennis." Would I share that with another person in the way I'm sharing it if Dennis was right here with me."
Bob: And I've always thought if I would then it's probably not gossip. Now, I guess it still could be, but if I wouldn't hesitate to share this fact this way, if Dennis was standing right here, I think that's kind of a practical safeguard to say then it's probably not gossip. Do you agree?
Martha: I agree. But if you wouldn't be comfortable saying it in that way then …
Bob: Then I shouldn't share it.
Martha: Yes. I guess it was a year ago I decided that I was going to take a vow of silence and go into a monastery, and it would keep me from getting into a lot of trouble. Then I decided, "Well, that's not going to do any good, because I'll just think about it in my heart, anyway." So I just need to repent.
Dennis: God is pretty down on gossip, isn't He?
Martha: He is. The Scriptures have a lot to say about slander and these kinds of things split churches, people become fools because they're passing in information, they're answering a matter before they've heard the other side. So our words are to be truthful and accurate and loving.
Bob: It surprises us when we read these lists of sins in the New Testament, and we read about immorality and drunkenness and debauchery. And then we see gossip and slander right there in the middle of the list, and we tend to think to ourselves, "Well, that's not like drunkenness, gossip," and yet God would say it's characteristic of the pattern of a man who is controlled by his own flesh, right?
Martha: Right, well, in Titus 2, it says "the older women are to teach and encourage the younger women," and it gives the character qualities of the godly older woman, and the first thing is she's not given to malicious gossip.
Bob: Now, if a woman is listening to the program, and she's saying, "Well, I don't think I'm a gossip, but, okay, I'm ready to examine my heart and see if I am." What questions does she need to ask herself to diagnose, "Do I have a problem in this area?"
Martha: I entitled the chapter on gossip -- "Well, Isn't It Okay if My Mother Told Me?" So it's not necessarily okay, even if your mother -- in this book, I gave several biblical principles about gossip and slander, and then it's very convicting, and what to do if you're guilty of it and even if you just listen and don't say anything, you're still guilty. So you need to say, "Whoa, stop," you know?
Dennis: The Scriptures say to put off slander, give us a working definition of slander, and then talk to us about how a person puts off slander.
Martha: I think slander is passing on a bad report, and some people really have a problem with judging other people's motives, and when the do that, they're misperceiving what somebody is saying or doing. They're reading more into it than what is actually there, and they can just viciously slander and gossip and talk about somebody when it's not even true.
Dennis: You know, this is the age of the Internet, and I am amazed at how fast bad news travels.
Martha: Right, that's true.
Dennis: I mean, in this age of distribution lists, it is real easy to be on the receiving end and turn around and push the sin button to a lot of people in a hurry, and you wonder sometimes, just taking your definition that you talked about there, Martha, if the Christian community really has developed an addiction to bad news.
It seems like we have a problem receiving good news because we're jealous of somebody else's success, and now, on the other hand, when we hear about somebody else's failure, we want to pass that on to someone else.
Martha: I think that is probably very true, and I think we really just need to ask the Lord to search our hearts, and what is our motive? Because I've written some books I know what it's like to be on the receiving end of people that disagree with me, and those that do that and do it in love, and even if I don't doctrinally agree with them, or I can't understand where they're coming from, I appreciate that when they come to me instead of writing an expose about me, at least come to me and try to persuade me their way if they think they're right.
Bob: We had a guest recently who was talking about finding some critical reviews of his books online, and he said, "I wrote to the individual who had posted them, and I said, 'I want to learn from you. I want to know where you think I'm messing up, and I've read your reviews, and I'd like to be able to dialog with you about some of these things.'" And he said, in doing that, he won his brother. You know, his brother came, and they've now got this dialog going, and it opened some communication, and I think it caused his brother to go, "Maybe before I step out with public words of disapproval, I ought to go to the other person first."
Let me take you back to Dennis's question, though. Somebody says, "I've got a problem with gossip. I pass along bad reports. I want to put that off practically. What do I do?"
Martha: There's a verse in Hebrews that talks about learning Scriptures, learning the Bible doctrine. Doctrine is just simply what the Scripture teaches about a certain subject, so that we can have our sense trained to discern good and evil. We have got to study the Scriptures, learn them. The more we learn, and God gives grace to the humble. So if we're teachable, and it's going to be embarrassing when you realize what you've done wrong or what you've been doing wrong, but if we're teachable, God will show us, and He will change our hearts.
I have a good friend that we shared an office at Clayton State. We both taught nursing, and she witnessed to me before I was saved and every day she came in there talking about the Lord, and I didn't know who she was talking about, and I didn't really much care who she was talking about. And then one day she said the Lord Jesus Christ. Well, then I knew who she was talking about, and I was furious with her.
But, anyway, she would witness to me, her church family prayed for my salvation, and then the Lord saved me, and my friend, Katrina, said that was the happiest day of her life -- and -- it really wasn't, but I know she was glad that I got saved.
Well, one day we had been at the hospital with nursing students, and we came out, and we were going to our cars, and she said, "I need to tell you something." And I was a brand-new baby Christian, and I was extremely zealous for the Lord but with very little knowledge of anything.
So she got in my car, she had her Bible, and she said, "I want to read you a verse, and it says 'The wounds of a friend are faithful, but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.'" And I said, "Well, what does that mean?" And she said, "Well, if somebody is really your friend, even if it hurts you temporarily, they're going to tell you the truth if you're doing something wrong, but an enemy is just going to tell you what you want to hear. They're just going to kiss up to you."
So she said, "I need to tell you something," and I said, "What?" And she said whatever it was I was doing wrong that day, she said, "As a Christian, you can't -- you shouldn't talk like that or say those things or think that way," and I didn't believe her. And I said, "Well, you show me in the Bible." Well, she was ready, because she knew me really well, and she showed me, and she read the verses, and she taught me, and every single time I was embarrassed it usually meant I had to go back and ask somebody's forgiveness for something.
But she was right, and I thank God for her, and as embarrassing as it is, it's not nearly as embarrassing as just continuing in your sin and not listening and at least considering that you might be wrong.
Bob: You're really talking about how the Bible renews the mind, aren't you?
Martha: Right, exactly -- not just with gossip but with all of these topics.
Dennis: And once we get a biblical definition of the concept slander and gossip, that has a way of being like a spiritual wheel alignment, because I've found in my own heart I can work out my own Webster's dictionary of what those concepts are and what they aren't. And what the Bible does is it takes us to the point of the absolute and defines what the sin is.
Bob: You're saying you can come up with a soft definition of gossip and slander …
Dennis: Oh, I can rationalize a lot and say, "You know, sharing this story about somebody who has failed," boy, that can instruct, you know, 1 Corinthians, chapter 10, talks about the nation of Israel being examples so we wouldn't follow in their steps, and so we kind of pass on the story of somebody's failure thinking this will be instructive for the next generation.
I want to take you to another subject you talk about in your book, "Damsels in Distress."
Dennis: It's one that I've run into, not in my own marriage with my mother-in-law, or with my mom when she was alive, but I have seen in other marriages, where there is the inability of the mother to allow the daughter or the son to leave so they can cleave. In other words, the mother-in-law, or the mother, ultimately is a control freak or a manipulator or trying to not cut the apron strings but lengthen them and keep them intact. Talk to us about this sin of manipulation.
Martha: Okay. I used to be an expert at this. I'm an only child, and I was very spoiled as a kid. My mother never spanked me. After I was grown, she apologized for that. I said, "You should have spanked me."
But I learned very early that if I persisted loud enough and long enough that my parents would usually give in and let me have what I wanted. And if I didn't get what I want, then I could pout and at least punish them in the process.
Getting back to the mother manipulating her adult daughter, that's a real problem. I remember when my daughter got married, and she had moved to Greenville, South Carolina, and that first Thanksgiving it never occurred to me that she wouldn't come home.
Bob: Right, right.
Martha: It just never occurred.
Bob: Well, she'd been home every Thanksgiving before that, right?
Martha: That's right, and how could she not? How could he not bring her home?
Dennis: So how does a manipulator handle that bad news?
Martha: Well, she called me cheerfully, and she said, "We decided we're going to go to the other parents for Thanksgiving," and I started getting teary, and I started getting defensive, and I said …
Dennis: … pouting?
Martha: Well, I didn't get that far. I said, "Anna, listen, this is not right. You live near them, you see them all the time. You need to come home. You need to see your brother, you need to -- everybody will be here." And she had been taught by me how to respond to this kind of manipulation, and she said, "Now, Mom, listen to yourself. You need to be glad for the other family." And I’m thinking, "I hate them."
But I couldn't say that, I knew that wasn't right. And she said, "Now, listen, we're going to go there, you be glad for them, and maybe next year we can come there, but I'm not promising, but we'll see."
So I hung up the phone, burst into tears -- I mean, I would have really pursued trying to convince her, but she cut me off. She knew how to deal with a manipulator, and so I called my husband, and I said, "It's ruined, Thanksgiving is ruined, we're never -- we're just not going to have it." And he said, "Yes, we are, and we're going to invite the whole church family." We had a really small church then. He did, and about 30 people came, and I was so busy ministering to them and serving them, and I had a wonderful Thanksgiving.
Dennis: You know what, Martha, about your book? You have a definition of manipulation in your book. This is what I think about it.
Bob: You just ripped the pages out.
Dennis: I just tore two pages out of her book, because I don't like her definition of manipulation.
Bob: Is she meddling with you?
Dennis: Well, listen to this, Bob, and see how you like it -- "Sinful manipulation is using unbiblical words and/or your countenance to bully another person into letting you have your way." Pull in your lower lip, Bob. "All the while, you know that if you cannot have your way, you can at least punish the other person in the process." And on that page that I just ripped out, she then has all the manipulating ploys of wives with their husbands -- sweet talk, begging, crying, anger, cold shoulder, accusations, threats -- I've got a feeling there are some women listening to the broadcast right now who, if they had the book, they'd tear those pages out, too, Bob.
Bob: I've got a feeling there are some women who are going, "I don't want to buy this book. This book is going to meddle with issues." But the reality is you know that these strategies, you know that what you're doing isn't honoring God, number one; it's not working in relationships, number two; and, number three, it does not adorn the Gospel. It doesn't put the glory of Christ on display in your life and in your marriage. And that's really what is at the heart of this book -- for Christian women to live and relate in such a way that God is honored and glorified, the Gospel is exalted, and relationships in that context can be all that God intends for them to be.
We've got copies of Martha's book in our FamilyLife Resource Center. It's called "Damsels in Distress, Biblical Solutions for Problems Women Face." You can go to our website, FamilyLife.com. In the middle of the home page, there's a red button that says "Go," and if you click that button, it will take you right to a page where there's more information about this resource and, in fact, we've got Martha's other book, "The Excellent Wife," also available in our FamilyLife Resource Center, and if you haven't read that book, it's outstanding.
In fact, if you're interested in getting both books together, we can send along at no additional cost the CD audio of our conversation here with Martha Peace. Go to our website again for all the details. It's FamilyLife.com, click the red button that says "Go" in the middle of the screen, and that will take you right to the area where you can get more information about both of these books and, of course, you can order online, if you'd like, or you can call us at 1-800-358-6329. That's 1-800-F-as-in-family, L-as-in-life, and then the word TODAY, and we've got folks who are available right now to take your call to help you get these resources sent to you.
I think most of our listeners know, Dennis, that FamilyLife Today is a listener-supported ministry. Like most of the ministries you hear on most of these stations, we depend on contributions from listeners for us to continue to do the work that God has called us to do, and we want to be clear when we let you know about our financial needs as a ministry. We do not want you to take away from giving to your local church to support the ministry of FamilyLife Today. We believe that the local church needs to be the first place, the primary place, where Christians give, and we're just grateful that some of you have been generous to do beyond what you are able to do with your local church to help support the ministry of FamilyLife.
If it weren't for that handful of folks who pitch in to help make this program possible, we couldn't continue the ministry of FamilyLife Today. This month we wanted to send a thank you gift to anyone who can help this ministry with a donation of any amount. It's a getaway guide for couples called "Getting Away to Get It Together." It's actually a workbook that walks you through a planning weekend where the two of you together can look at your relationship, look at your family, ask questions, make modifications, get on the same page and get organized.
We would love to send this out, again, as our way of saying thank you when you make a donation of any amount this month to the ministry of FamilyLife Today. If you're donating online, when you're filling out the donation form, you'll come to a keycode box. Just type the word "away" in there, if you will -- a-w-a-y -- and that way we'll know that you'd like to have a copy of this book sent to you, or call 1-800-FLTODAY to make a donation and just mention that you'd like a copy of the getaway book, and we'll be happy to send it out to you.
Again, let us say thank you for your financial support of this ministry. We appreciate your partnership with us.
Well, tomorrow Martha Peace is going to be back. We're going to continue to talk about challenges women face. One of the things we want to talk about is those unfulfilled expectations that maybe your husband doesn't even know you're expecting. We'll talk about that tomorrow. I hope you can be with us for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We'll see you back tomorrow for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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