Close Your Ears- A Lesson in Discretion

“Close your ears,” my mother would say, signaling all of us at the dinner table that we had just overheard something not yet meant for our ears. Usually, it was a snippet of conversation between her and Dad, something exciting or intriguing. But occasionally, it was information accidentally revealed during casual talk.

As a child, I held the unofficial title of the world’s most curious snoop. Whenever my parents retreated to their room for a private conversation, I’d press my ear against the door, eager to catch every word. My parents, while amused by my inquisitiveness, recognized it as a flaw that needed correction.

My mother spent years teaching me discretion—to mind my own business and respect others’ privacy. No more eavesdropping on her phone calls or prying into who had called. “Listening in” was neither cute nor acceptable behavior. They assured me that if something truly essential arose, they’d share it with me in due time.

By their example, my parents instilled in me the art of avoiding gossip. They taught me that the listener is as guilty as the teller. I witnessed my mother gracefully halt a friend mid-conversation, saying, “Please, no more. I don’t need to hear that.” She’d then steer the discussion away from sharing someone else’s shortcomings.

Today, my curiosity remains intact, but my upbringing guides me. I’ve advised friends not to divulge unnecessary details or names. Sometimes, all I need to pray for a situation is minimal information. I shared in a recent post, Love Covers about the importance of knowing what things to share and what there are private; knowing who to tell things to is also invaluable for children to lean.

Gossip and slander—two words that often slip into our conversations unnoticed. Gossip is one person telling unconfirmed information to other people. and Slander is saying bad things about another person. Both gossip and slander are unnecessary, unloving, and harmful. Both gossip and slander involve a teller and a hearer.

I have learned that a lot of hurt and pain could be completely avoided if people could discern not only when shut their mouths, but their ears too.

As hearers, we bear a responsibility when it comes to the information we receive. When someone shares potentially harmful details about another person, we must quickly discern whether or not we need to engage in that conversation.

When to Listen:

Responsibility to Help:

When counseling someone or discipling a child, the information they share becomes crucial. It equips me as a guide to know where issues are and how to best help those in my care overcome their difficulties with others.

If I am personally involved:

Sometimes I need to be informed about things that concern me because they relate either to me or to a situation that pertains to me. In such cases, actively listening to information, discerning truth from falsehood, and avoiding assumptions about unknown details can be insightful in seeking the truth of a personal situation.

When to close your ears:

Unnecessary Details:

If we’re not directly involved or responsible, we’re not doing anyone a favor by hearing things that should remain private.

Avoiding Harm:

Gossip and slander can inflict wounds. By choosing not to listen we guar our hearts and minds from negative thoughts and feelings about others, as well as untruths that might be told us by someone who does not have all the facts or is so personally involved only one perspective seems right.

We don’t hear much about the sin of gossip in our culture. I think it has hidden in a variety of names…. confiding, seeking justice, prayer request, preventing further harm to others… Gossip doesn’t always name names, or even seek to damage as it strives to be heard and seen.

The Hidden Faces of Gossip:

Our culture often disguises gossip under various names:

  • Confiding: If my friend is telling me her negative opinions about someone else, chances are, she or he cannot be trusted with my confidence either. As person who shares too much has a problem of sharing too much, no-one is safe in their mouth.
  • Seeking Justice: Some people consider it good justice/revenge to ruin another person’s reputation, by sharing that persons secrets in public. If the right courses put in place by God do not serve justice, as Christians, we have no choice but to leave the matter in God’s hands. We should never attempt to resolve those matters on our own.
  • Prayer Requests: Sometimes, we use prayer as a cover for gossip. By asking someone to pray for a situation, we sometimes share more than should be said or hear more than should be heard.
  • Preventing Further Harm: We convince ourselves that sharing information serves a noble purpose; that may sometimes be true, but in general that is a cover-up reason for those who are dealing with deep hurt and seeking personal healing by sharing their story.

People who are godless are described in Romans 1:29-31 as: “filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; 31 they have no understanding, no fidelity, no loveno mercy.

II Corinthians 12:20 also describes artificial believers as: there may be discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, slander, gossip, arrogance and disorder.”

We, as believers  to guard our mouths and ears with great diligence. If there is a question that we ae saying or hearing something that could be gossip or slander, it is best not to say a word. And if we are uncertain if what we are being told is completely true, helpful, or kind…it is best to find something else to talk about, or as my mother would say, “Close your ears.”