August 4, 1998
Remember Pinnochio, the wooden puppet who wanted to be a real live boy? In the story, every time he told a lie, his nose grew.
A news item reports that our eyes are always the same size from birth but our nose and ears never stop growing. Having tried portrait painting, I am aware that a child’s eyes are huge compared to other features. I’ve also noticed when you look at a person’s profile, the length of the ears is the same as the nose. Age doesn’t matter.
That ears and noses never stop growing is a surprise. I suppose if they have to be the same size as each other, it makes sense if one grows, the other must grow also. At least this would keep our features looking somewhat balanced. What a curiosity. Why would we need continual growth to our nose and ears? When we get older, is there a need for increased nasal passages? Does our hearing improve if our ears keep getting bigger? There seems no reason for it.
From another angle, it would be interesting if we had the same type of affliction as Pinochio – only applied to hearing the wrong things, like gossip. Imagine our ears becoming larger whenever we listened to stories better left unheard. How helpful. We could easily identify those who can keep secrets and those who should never be told anything!
This news story makes me think about gossip. Idle talk is a universal activity. People in every culture and for centuries have been swapping stories about others, particularly those not involved in the conversation and who have not given permission for the telling.
As much as people like to gossip, no one wants others to gossip about them. Most of us agree that it is wrong and Christians know God says we should not do it. Before I read about it in the Bible, my grandmother said, “If you cannot say something nice, don’t say anything at all.”
Sometimes gossip begins innocently. We tell someone about another person’s troubles and ask them to pray for that person. If we stopped and prayed at that point, all would be well. However, talk easily slides to semi-disguised put-downs, ridicule or a judgmental evaluation. Job’s friends even did this to his face.
God does not take this universal activity lightly. It is listed with sins like jealousy, anger and arrogance. Slander (a closely related relative) is classified with greed, idolatry, adultery and sexual immorality. The Bible says, “A false witness will perish, and whoever listens to him will be destroyed forever.” (A variation says, ‘ . . . and the words of an obedient man will live on.’)
Gossip is wrong yet breaking the habit is seldom easy, especially if everyone else is doing it. My sister says she gets caught too, but sometimes stops herself with a little trick. She says, “I gossip about myself.”
Actually, she shows great insight. We need a certain core attitude before we can resist both gossip and slander. If we can tell stories about ourselves, particularly highlighting our weaknesses, mistakes, or short-comings, we usually have a healthy self-image. People with a strong sense of their own value do not need to tear someone down to build themselves up.
A healthy self-concept is rooted in deep confidence that God loves and accepts us and will meet all our needs. Since His opinion is primary and His care is certain, there is no need to prove anything or compete with others, much less tear them apart with gossip.
As for the ear/nose thing, I could check it out by measuring them every year. However, God says “life and death are in the power of the tongue” so that means another priority. By His grace, I’m working on putting a stop to the growth of gossip.