“We are stewards of the treasure of each other’s good names.” -Jon Bloom
“The absent one must be safe among us.” -Amy Carmichael.
In her book Adorned: Living Out the Beauty of the Gospel Together, Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth (you may know her as Nancy Leigh DeMoss) unpacks Paul’s instructions to women in Titus 2. One of the commands is to be “reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine” (2:3).
Abstaining from slander is part of what it looks like to be “reverent in behavior.” Here are Wolgemuth’s four descriptions of slander:
- Slander can involve giving a false report.
- Slander can involve the spreading of harmful information.
- Slander can include the reporting of truth with harmful intent.
- Slander is not the same as gossip, but gossip makes slander easier.
Slander is speaking such words that defame a person’s character, regardless of the truthfulness of the words. Slander divides. It damages relationships. It destroys. It has even been called a form of “verbal homicide.”
Slips of the tongue are so easy to fall into. I can recall a handful of my conversations in which an absent person’s name comes up in statements such as, “Did you know she…?” or “Pray for him, because he…” And then, just like that, the individual being discussed was defamed, taken down a peg, slandered. Our tongues, though small, can cause the most damage to individuals and relationships. James tells us in Chapter 3 of his epistle, “But no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it, we bless our Lord and Father, and with it, we curse people who are made in the likeness of God” (James 3:8-9).
How do we abstain from slander? What should we do instead? Here are just three of Nancy’s exhortations:
- Humble yourself.
- Stop it! (“Impose a zero-tolerance policy concerning the sharing of unkind, untrue, unhelpful information about others”)
- Speak well of others. (“Perhaps the best way to curb our bent for picking at others’ faults is simply to go out of our way to say good things about them”)
Slander is easy, it is dangerous, and it is never worth it. “But with God’s help, let’s use our tongues to build up those around us rather than tearing them down. Above all, let’s speak words that make much of Christ. Words that adorn His gospel and put His loveliness on display.”