I have two younger siblings, a brother and a sister. As we were growing up, there were many times that I was irritated by one of them. I would complain about my brother being the favorite or about my sister wearing her knees socks OVER her knees. It was perfectly acceptable for me to pick on either of them. But, it was NOT okay for anyone else to do the same. We were family and I would protect them both. As adults, it angered me when an in-law would criticize a sibling. We were Browns by birth. Anyone else was an outsider, even if they just happened to be married to a Brown.
Through the years, I’ve watched newly formed family relationships damaged by inappropriate conversations that are critical of another family member. It’s easy to get on the band wagon and bash whoever is under fire. But be warned: anything you say, can and will be repeated and YOU will be the bad guy in the situation. You may think you are safe talking about sister-in-law A to sister-in-law B. You are wrong. Whatever you say about A will be repeated by B at some point in the future. When I was a newly wed 20-something, it was common to hear criticism of the other daughter-in-laws at family gatherings. As a result, I was very aware of every word I said. I was never completely at ease. I always wondered what was being said about me when I wasn’t around. On a few occasions, I did know what was said because it was repeated to me by an in-law.
I am constantly amazed to meet people who appear to thrive on conflict. I’m never sure if that’s the only attention they feel they deserve or if it’s the only way they know to control a situation. I was taught that being truthful made life easier. It eliminated the need to keep up with multiple story lines. I guess we all say what we believe the listener wants to hear to some degree. But, I don’t understand people that tear down a person in one discussion and then get on social media and sing their praises as soon as they leave the room. It’s not a way to build trust. It’s not a way to build good family relationships.
A good rule of thumb: If you wouldn’t say something directly to someone, don’t say it about them to someone else. I’m aware there are times that we have to discuss intervention in situations, I get that. But, the daily conversations that tend to move to gossip can be stopped. It’s not easy. I find it extremely difficult when I’m irritated or feeling used. But, I know that I should at least attempt to control my conversations.
“Forget about deciding what’s right for each other. Here’s what you need to be concerned about: that you don’t get in the way of someone else, making life more difficult than it already is. I’m convinced—Jesus convinced me!—that everything as it is in itself is holy. We, of course, by the way we treat it or talk about it, can contaminate it.” Romans 14:13-14 The Message