By Dr Michael D. Sedler
When driving to Parkes for a weekend get-away, I stopped on the side of the road and asked God what was the next book on the list. I looked for a while and found this book. Not only what he said is biblical, freeing and helps us as Christians walk in integrity, it showed me something in my life that I was aware of, but God was now saying it is time to step up in the way I not only speak but allow others to speak of people in a way that honours God and each other. I pray this summary not only encourages you but gives you some tools and insight into both how to speak and listen to others that builds both them and yourself up.
To purchase the book you can get a Kindle copy for $5.27 or a paperback from $14.16.
I plan to publish a summary of the last 7 chapters of the book later. They are really worth reading!
Chapter 1: The Power Of The Spoken Word
We are living in a toxic society, that believes it is OK to speak negatively or harshly to each other. Our thoughts can create injury and pain to others, but we are often blinded to how our words injure and hurt others. God is calling us to see this for what it is and to develop new thought patterns.
And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. Romans 12:2
How do we gain control over our conversations when they are not godly? What do we do when people want to engage in negative talk about others? Our goal must be to "bring compassion and love to others in a way that will assist them in developing positive speech patterns."
Some questions that will be addressed in the book:-
What is meant by an "evil or negative report" and how do I recognize it?
Is it ever possible to talk about someone without indulging in the negative report?
Is it still an evil report if those who are speaking do not mean to injure another person?
What if the report is factual? Is it still considered an "evil report"?
What if I just listen without comment? Is that not OK?
I never intend to get involved in negativity, but sometimes the conversation gets away from me. Can I learn to respond in a biblical way to people who gossip and murmur?
How can I be emotionally, mentally and spiritually cleansed from the violation that occurs when I listen to these reports?
What is an evil or false report? One word that first comes to mind is gossip. When we look at the word evil, it is immoral qualities. Evil reports, therefore, are anything said or said in a certain way. Evil reports involve attitudes and the conditions of our hearts. A definition then is: "When an individual maliciously injures, damages or discredits another's reputation or character through the use of words or attitude. We need to be very careful who we speak and give thought to how our words impact other people.
Our goal as Christians is to walk in integrity, purity and commitment in all relationships and interactions. In Proverbs, we read:-
Whoever hides hatred has lying lips,
And whoever spreads slander is a fool. Proverbs 10:18.
Some questions of self-reflection given by the author:-
Do you speak negatively about others?
When you are hurt by another person's insensitivity, do you confront him or her directly, or do you share the frustration with others?
If Christ was listening to each of your conversations, would the content be offensive to Him?
When you disagree with your supervisor, who else is going to know about it?
There is a clear distinction between sharing about events and people in a positive, loving, compassionate and educational way and sharing with the intent to cause pain and hurt to the person you are talking about. When we talk about others or listen to evil or negative reports, we easily become prideful and selfish. Just listening to these reports causes damage to your viewpoint, perspective and spirit. As we become involved in evil reports, we become discontented and our speech patterns become contaminated.
Chapter 2: Here Comes the Pitch: Being on the Alert
Like a baseballer throwing pitches, the person bringing evil reports uses many different ways of delivering evil reports. By understanding the different approaches, we can be ready to stop the conversation before it gets out of hand. The different approaches are:-
Looks for support from you for his beliefs, attitudes or actions - The speaker may believe you will agree and affirm their position and will not question what they are saying. They are using us because we are gullible and blind to these negative speech patterns. We must always listen with questioning.
Tries to distract you from a God-given focus or course of action -The speaker may be speaking so as to injure the person, not to encourage, bring restoration or support.
Attempts to create disunity and division - The speaker may desire to bring disunity among people through what they are saying. If we are not on guard, our curiosity could lead us into disunity.
Shows anger when you disagree with her - When the speaker becomes angry with you and defensive if you disagree with what they are saying. These strong emotions point to a strong personal motive. There is an emotional investment and they need support. Often when we have been hurt, we have been unforgiving and then have used words that are negative and critical to get back at the person.
Approaches with an apparent humble and modest attitude - The speaker may ask for your opinion which then leads to an outpouring of gossip. This needs to be stopped straight away so your curiosity is not aroused. Here are some kind and sensitive responses you could make:-
Q: Can you keep a secret? R: Not really
Q: Did you hear about Carol? R: Yes, isn't she a sweet person?
Q: Wait until you hear about Tim R: Okay, I'll wait. I am sort of busy now!
Attempts to show off his power, strength or authority - The speaker may be in a position of power and want to show off their authority by sharing what they know. This is to gain recognition.
Flatters and praises you - The speaker may want to influence your thinking by using compliments to set up their approach. Flattery can be used to "soften the enemy" manipulate and deliver an evil report. Proverbs 20:19 says "Therefore do not associate with one who flatters with his lips".
Embellishes and exaggerates a situation to make it seem worse than it really is - The speaker exaggerates what negative things they see to bring fear and to destroy your faith in God. Our carnal mind takes over and faith is destroyed.
When we look at each of the eight areas, we see an atmosphere of confusion, critical perspectives and fear. We need to stop talking using negative reports and hearing them from others. Proverbs says:-
The hypocrite with his mouth destroys his neighbour,
But through knowledge, the righteous will be delivered. Proverbs 11:9
God is directing us to stand firm in our convictions through being sensitive, kind, compassionate and loving.
Chapter 3: Controlling the Tongue
The opening of a conversation is where we are often lured into evil reports. God is calling us to become aware of these behaviours and to stop them. We are being taught to know how these negative reports are communicated and to stop them before they cause destruction. As we become aware of these negative ways of speaking about others and listening to others as they speak them we both see this as sin and something that God is causing us to no longer take part in.
The author gives an expanded definition of evil reports:-
"An unauthorized, distorted or false report that influences us to form a negative (or evil) opinion about another person"
When we are caught in unhealthy conversations, we can often feel trapped. As a result, they continue so we feel defiled and uncomfortable. There are a number of questions we can ask to test the motives or intentions of someone BEFORE listening to them and being influenced by what they say:-
"Is this something you think I need to hear about?" - This questions the legitimacy of telling you. Do they really need to tell you? When people are hurt or angry they know they should not say these things but are still party to speaking and listening to negative reports.
"What specific parts of this conversation need to be discussed with me?" - This gives you and the other person time to gain self-control. They also have time to cut away the parts that are negative and biased so you can just hear what you need to.
"I am going to take notes so I can recall details. Do you mind?" - People do not like to be held accountable for any murmuring or gossip so this will keep people accountable for their words.
"Who told you this information?" - By speaking this softly and without accusation, you are calling the speaker into accountability. If they do not reveal who the person is, then it is a sign there could be hiddenness, secrecy and a high possibility of an evil report.
"Is this your opinion/interpretation of something you have heard, or did you actually observe this situation?" - Evil reports are not always false reports but false reports are always evil. Sometimes the person speaking only gives the facts that support their position. In John 18:33-34 when Jesus was speaking to Pilate Jesus responds to him by saying "Are you speaking for yourself about this, or did others tell you this concerning Me?"
"May I quote you when I check this out?" - When you record what people say, then they cannot say they were misquoted. They need to take responsibility for what they say.
"Before you share any further, what are you expecting from me?" - This question helps bring to light the purpose behind sharing the information and the expectation that comes with it. This helps reveal the manipulation that could be taking place.
"Do you agree with (or find validity in) this situation as it has been presented to you?" - Or you could ask them how they personally feel about this situation. Is this situation consistent with the person you are talking about? How would Jesus ask you to deal with this situation? Let them know it is not your problem and for them to decide or decide to pray then and there.
"Have you spoken to those people who are directly involved with this situation?" - In Matthew 18:15 Jesus tells us how to deal with a dispute. See the person, then if it is resolved you win a brother! See Galatians 6:1-2.
"It is important for me to pray about this(Or think about it, get counsel from others, etc) before I respond to you." - These models that you are not going to respond emotionally and make a rash decision. This decision often affects people personally. Sometimes things need to be talked about! God is calling us to use words of encouragement, support and hope, not destruction.
The bottom line is that speaking and listening to evil reports is a sin!
Chapter 4: Attitude: The Cornerstone of Life
When we have the right attitude we can hear the same words as someone else, and they can go on the road to destruction and we can walk in success. The key to responding effectively in difficult situations is attitude. Attitude is more important than fact, the past, education etc…. We cannot change how people treat us and even sometimes our circumstances. Each day we need to choose our attitude. Life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I react to it.
What is attitude? Webster's dictionary defines it as a mental position, feeling, or emotion towards a fact or state. We form attitudes from perception, from experiences and from judgements and change according to interactions, moods, health and experiences. We can be polluted by others just as much as we can pollute them. Even when our whole life is out of control, people cannot control our attitude … only we can. When we start to blame others, we start giving them power over our lives. There are four major areas where we place blame causing us to develop negative emotions:-
Blaming others (Friends, authorities in life, outsiders) - We can conveniently blame others for our own failures, poor decisions and times when we have not been responsible. It is easy to point the finger as our first line of defence. It makes it even easier when people are not around when we blame them.
Blaming family - When life is not going our way, families are the closest to you and the easiest and most convenient to blame.
Blaming oneself - Many can forgive others but not themselves. As guilt overwhelms them they are trapped by issues with self-doubt, self-esteem, confidence and shame. In the Bible, Judas blamed himself when things did not work out and killed himself. Peter was forgiven by Jesus, forgave himself and was a great leader and apostle.
Blaming God - I can easily blame God because He made me, or I can see the situation as a result of my sin and the sin of others. God is capable and willing to work in my situation so it turns out well… even when it currently looks bad.
God is calling us to live a life where we can touch others with kindness and compassion. He is leading us into a life where we are not in isolation and our life has a depth of love and meaning. There are a number of things we can do:-
Take time to listen to others - This means not inserting our own opinions, ideas and perspectives. Listen to their words and their emotions. Find out what they really want from us. Do they want support, affirmation, guidance, a listening ear, a friend or companionship? Ask, "What can I do to help?"
Ask other people for their opinion - Seek out other people's opinions. In doing so, we can often find a better way of handling a situation. In Proverbs 18:1 we read, "A man who isolates himself seeks his own desire; He rages against all wise judgment."
Avoid telling other people what to do - Few people like to be told what to do without having options. Share decision making and responsibilities. The Bible is a good place to find guidance with this!
Be a teacher (and learner) in life and not a spectator - Get involved with others and help guide and encourage. Invest in a project and other persons lives. It can get messy and there are often disappointments but the relationships you form will be worth it!
Learn to relate to others then teach by doing. Don't fall in the trap of blaming others, even God and yourself. Take responsibility for your words and actions AND choose the attitude that will cause you to move forward and allow the positive aspects of your life to flow into others.
Chapter 5: Why Do We Gossip?
The most important thing we can do is be aware of how we are subtly defiled in our minds and spirits when we listen to evil reports. It not only harms us but all those around us and the person being spoken of. This awareness will cause us to look for a way to stop negative conversations. We may believe there are many excuses for listening and speaking evil reports including being trapped, rebellion or even feeling justified by our emotions from what has been done to us.
When we are immersed in conversations based on evil reports, our minds become filled with confusion. As we become more and more confused, the fewer defences we have towards stopping these conversations. Confusion is one of Satan's greatest tools. The more confused we become, the greater the chance that we will make foolish decisions and thus go in a downward spiral. God is calling us to increase in knowledge and become wiser as we walk with Him.
The heart of the prudent acquires knowledge,
And the ear of the wise seeks knowledge. Psalm 18:15.
What is confusion? The author says "Listening to conflicting voices to such an extent that we become unsure about our own personal belief system."
When we are constantly hearing so many different stories, we become confused and start fighting the people around us, especially those in authority. Knowing how to disagree with others without becoming defensive is extremely important. Our goal is to not be confused but very clear on our beliefs and what we stand for and develop self-management and wisdom to know times when we can share our opinions and when we need to be quiet.
Layers Of Confusion
1.When we enter a state of confusion, we lose sight of what is really important in our lives.
When we become confused emotionally we start to have negative conversations. We start to say things that injure those around us through our negative words and insensitivity on when to talk and when to be silent.
2.Confusion has an impact on those around us and creates disorder in life
In the Bible, one strategy we see God use to defeat the enemies of God is confusion. For example, when Gideon had his small army uncover their lamps and smash their jars and cry out, the enemy became confused and started to attack each other. We need to be extremely careful of who we are around so we do not become confused through the evil reports of others.
When we are counselling others we must put on the full armour of God and pray a cleansing prayer over all who have been listening at the end of each session. Confusion can be passed on spiritually.
3.Confusion creates a need for acceptance from those around us
People can use our need for acceptance and love to draw us into evil reports. We need to be vigilant and ensure that we are not involved in conversations that are mocking or put people down. We must walk and act maturely. This means not being part of these conversations that bring pain and destruction to us and the other person. We must not talk about others who are not there and cannot defend themselves.
4.Confusion can camouflage the speaker's true intentions and what motivates his evil report
There are many motives for giving negative or evil reports. God is calling us to become self-controlled, willing to be accountable to others and to deal with any personal sin. Below are some examples:-
Anger - When our thinking is based on anger or rage we cannot think logically any more. All thinking is based on the affective realm (emotional state) and does not operate in the cognitive realm (thinking state).
Bitterness - This occurs when someone has been rejected or personally hurt. The desire is often for payback and is actually poisonous. (For I see that you are poisoned by bitterness and bound by iniquity.”)
Mocking - There could be a spirit of mockery, making fun of others or putting others down. If we do this to others the Bible says it will return to us. (Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. Galatians 6:7)
Deceit - Deceitful people believe these evil reports are OK to give and just help the people concerned to get what they deserve. They believe the world only operates their way leading to misunderstandings, stubbornness and a refusal to learn.
Envy - People who have jealousy and envy at their roots desire what others have in their lives. God is calling us to be thankful for what God has done in our lives and to not be caught in the trap of looking at the blessing of others.
Self-Seeking - When God's direction is less important than our own priorities, desires, wants and ambitions we become self-seeking.
Guilt - This occurs when we try to justify our past actions, mistakes and attitudes instead of admitting our guilt. We cover up our sin by slandering others. Guilt is only overcome through forgiveness and through this our relationship can be re-built.
Offences - When we have been offended and hold in our hurts and bitterness we will speak evil over others. There is no place in our lives for being offended.
Rebellion - When we are rebellious, we can easily justify an independent spirit. We can either learn to repent or rebel. When we are rebellious, rule, laws and guidelines are for others and not ourselves.
Pride - With pride comes self-exaltation. God is calling us instead to serve and prefer others before ourselves.
5.Confusion distorts our perception of how detrimental it is to listen to gossip and murmuring
We can enjoy listing to gossip because it can lift us up. Gossip can make us feel powerful as people we feel negative emotions about are being hurt which is way of retaliation or getting them back. Sadly, the more we are involved in these negative conversations the more hardened we are to how destructive they are to us and those around us.
6.Confusion blinds us to how Satan uses evil reports
When we engage in evil reports, we negatively affect every area of our lives. Satan attacks 5 main areas through the use of evil reports:-
Satan uses evil reports to destroy families - God wants us to be aware of Satan's ploys and how God is calling us to speak about others. We must break out of any confusion through prayer, accountability and reading the Word of God.
Satan uses evil reports to attack spiritual leaders and undermine their authority in the church and the Kingdom of God - This is common to all leaders. People seem to naturally direct negative reports towards their leaders, especially when they have vision and direction.
Satan may use a false report to create an atmosphere that separates brother from brother and sister from sister - Satan's desire is to separate God's people from one another AND between the people and their God-given leaders.
Satan desires to divide and conquer - Satan is the author of confusion and seeks whom he may devour (1 Peter 5:8) Every evil report benefits God's enemies.
Satan uses evil reports to belittle God's people - This happens inside and outside the Christian community. The way we deal with sin and failure should be a source of encouragement and strength to those who are not yet believers.
God wants to cleanse our hearts, purify our spirit from defilement and guide our tongues in future conversations. We are not bound by the past. God is calling us to fully seek His Kingdom and His righteousness.
Chapter 6: Keeping Free from Verbal Contamination
When there are any discussions where people's character are being defamed, whether they are true or not, it leads to evil reports. Gossip and cruel words only create more strife. Sadly, gossip does not cover and support the victims but is used to get sympathy and support for the one speaking the evil report. We need to develop an action plan so when we hear these words we can quickly deal with the situation so our involvement is minimised. Removing fuel stops the fire. Changing how we deal with issues changes both our and other people's habits.
Track The contamination
If we are in a situation with evil reporting we cannot just remain quiet. If we say nothing, we become deceived which is spiritual contamination. The definition of contamination given is: "Allowing one's spirit to be polluted through negative conversation. If we are confused we become involved which leads to contamination of our spirits and then we become defiled. God is calling us to no longer be polluted by negative reports which fill us with pain and suffering and create negative impacts on all those around us.
Why silence does not get the message across
When we do not speak up, our agreement or consent on the point of view is implied. The sooner we speak up with a different view, the quicker the conversation will end.
When we know that just listening to negative reports is very harmful to both us and others, we must learn to speak up boldly. When we learn to speak wisely into these situations, what we say is meant to throw water on the fire, not fuel! You can speak positively about the person or say that it sounds that they are really hurting, what can you do to help? Giving positive responses shuts down the tendency for others to speak more negative comments.
When a proud heart is an issue
What happens when we willingly listen to negative talk. Listening to negative reports is an important issue to cause. Those who don't speak up when they hear negative reports may get the same consequences as those who are saying them. We are all under God's laws and there are consequences when we blatantly disobey them. God is calling us to carefully examine our listing habits coma to know when we're being contaminated and to stop being a victim in these situations
The spiritual lines of defence
God has given us a number of protective spiritual defences that will stop us from being contaminated here are some examples:-
Discernment - Through the gift of the Holy Spirit, we can discern between good and evil thoughts and intents of the house and between the righteous and the wicked. Nearby
Wisdom - Through the gift of the Holy Spirit we can receive wisdom from God we can receive pure peaceable wisdom with good fruits and received wisdom more precious than gold.
Knowledge - Through the gift to the Holy Spirit we can say things in the spirit not the flesh we can abound in knowledge and we can share our knowledge by good conduct and conversation.
Revelation. Through the gift of the Holy Spirit, we can bring a profitable word to others and we save supernatural understanding.
God is calling us to take a stance against evil reports. The incredible consequences for not standing up exceed any discomfort we might feel or concerns that we have about hurting the speaker's feelings
Chapter 7 subtle seductions in conversations
Confusion and contamination causes ask to continue in uncontrolled conversations. If we don't stop them we move into a stage called foolishness. Foolishness by definition he's allowing enable the report to influence one's thinking and discernment about people in situations. When we listen to evil reports we can quickly develop an offence against the person being criticised we lose discernment we lack wisdom and start believing the accusation without checking facts or hearing the rest of the Storey. This foolishness effects those beliefs and behaviours as we become polluted with critical and negative thoughts. There are seven types of evil reporters.
The backbiter: One who speaks against an absent individual. This person criticises and makes comments about a person without them being present.
The busy body: This is one who seeks out information on a false report and spreads it by means of gossip slender backbiting etc. God quotes a busy body as being an evildoer or even a killer. A busy body can easily wave a spell over another person.
The complainer: One who finds faults. This person uses his personal situations to build their complaints. As they talk from personal experiences they use emotions and evokes sympathy from the listener. We must be aware of this and not become emotionally involved and realise how our spirit had been violated by this person.
The murmurer: This person complains quietly so you can just hear what they're saying. They are seldom pleased with the outcome of situations Anna constantly looking for faults that justify their bad attitude.
The slanderer: An individual who tries to injure someone's reputation or character by false and defamatory restatements: this person has a desire to destroy or defame someone's reputation so they can be elevated. These people cannot be trusted to give accurate information.
The Tale Bearer or gossip: When we associate with these people we also become loose with our own terms. it is easy for us through habit to discuss other people. The more we are around people like this the more our spirit is contaminated full.
The whisperer: An individual who talks about other people privately secretly and covertly in order to hurt them. This person often users a quiet soft voice to promote secrecy with the intent of destroying another person. The author gives a quote from a fortune cookie which says speak well of people and you need never whisper. This is excellent advice.
God is calling us to understand the tactics website and to avoid any pitfall he puts in front of us. We are all susceptible to run away conversations and must learn how to deal with them before they become toxic to us and others. Being part of an evil report or conversation defiles our minds and our spirits so we must stay away from them. When we become defiled we entered into foolish practises and responses.
The cyclical pattern of foolishness in the Bible when we read about Moses in Aaron we say Aaron becoming confused and contaminated through listening to the people. He allowed people to pressurise him into thinking and then acting foolishly. Instead of repenting error responded by blinding other people and their foolish nature. When we have a history with other people we can allow these previous experiences to influence us. Evil reports blade to sin and pain and ultimately distraction in relationships with God and others.
God is calling us to wisdom regarding how we deal with evil reports. God is calling us to be known boy I got the character and actions of our life. The only way to deal with contamination history Pence and be willing to submit to gods and he will purify us from all evil.