I first heard this piece of advice about five years ago from a gifted Christian leader. He was speaking at a Bible conference and in the course of his message advised us to “never repeat what someone said someone said.” It only gets you in trouble.
This is especially important advice when you are angry and in the midst of some sort of relational conflict. It could be at work or at church or with a friend or in some professional context or it could be within your extended family. The speaker recounted an occasion when he had been part of a bitter church controversy, the exact details of which he did not share because they didn’t matter. It was evidently about personalities and programs and decisions and power and which way are we going and who will lead us and how will we get there? The usual things Christians fight about. In the midst of the controversy, the speaker said he broke this rule one time and one time only. He repeated something that someone said someone said. Only he didn’t quite get the story right. Perhaps it wasn’t relayed properly or in context. But he passed the quote along as the truth because that’s what he thought it was. And it blew up in his face in a big way. Someone called him on it and he had to go back and apologize and try to make things right. It was a difficult and embarrassing time for him.
Never repeat what someone said someone said. Why is this such good advice?
–Because you may not have the full story.
–You probably don’t have the context of whatever was said.
–You weren’t there to observe the body language of what was said.
–If you are angry, you will be tempted to put the worst possible construction on what was said.
–The person relaying the information may have an axe to grind.
–You may be guilty of passing along a bad report to those who don’t need to hear it.
–You may gain a reputation as a talebearer or a gossip.
–If the information is not correct, you may face serious consequences.
And mostly we shouldn’t do this sort of thing, especially when we are angry or hurt, because it corrodes our own soul.
Guard your heart.
Set your mind on things above.
Think on those things that are pure and lovely and of good report.
The heart is a fragile thing. Once filled with anger, it is hard to fill it again with love. We can abide in Christ or we can abide in gossip, but we can’t do both at the time.
I suppose we have all occasionally repeated what someone said someone said. But let this be the last word. If you are angry or hurt or in the middle of a conflict, don’t do it. Let those who actually heard what was said repeat it–and let them be held responsible for whatever they say.
When you are angry, hold your tongue and guard your heart. And don’t repeat what someone said someone said.
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