Tuesday, November 05, 2013

How Do I Seek Advice Without Turning It Into Gossip?

From a friendly reader named Christi:

"Here is my question: If I am having a conflict/issue/whatever you like to call it with 'Jane' how do I seek advice about it, without turning it into gossip?"

Great question, Christi! I'm encouraged that you're even asking this question. That tells me that you will probably have a much easier time keeping from gossiping than if you didn't care. Too often, we live carelessly and purposely.

Here's what I said about this kind of question in Resisting Gossip:

"Sometimes we need to seek counsel from a wise person about our conflicts and problems. Seeking counsel may involve sharing the shameful things that someone else has done without that person being there. It is certainly not sinful gossip to truly seek out help. On the other hand, we can often mask our desire
to gossip by claiming that we are just seeking counsel. The key to sharing circumstances with people in a right way is to keep loving others even when we have to talk about them and even if they are our enemies. We’ll dig into this more in chapter 8, but simply put, we just need to apply Jesus’ Golden Rule to any difficult
situation. If you have to talk about someone when they are not present, make sure that you are treating them as you would want to be treated."  (pg. 29)

So, if you were Jane, how would you want that conversation to proceed?

Here are a couple of thoughts to add to that basic answer:

- You may not need to use Jane's name. If it's not necessary for your counselor to know it, that is one way of protecting her reputation.

- Try to limit the details to the facts that your counselor needs to help you with advice. He or she may not need to know all of your feelings about it or all of the nitty-gritty.

- Guard your heart. Remember to ask, "Why am I sharing this?" and don't assume that your motives are always healthy. Don't allow yourself to make excuses. Step back from asking for advice if you think you've slipped into doing it for the wrong reasons.

- Be very careful whom you ask for help. Don't ask someone who isn't safe and won't be as concerned for Jane's reputation as you are.

- Talk to the Lord about the situation before you talk to a human advice-giver.  Our Heavenly Father knows all about it and can handle whatever you tell Him. He's much safer than anyone else to talk to and won't be tempted to fall into gossip with you. I've found that if I pray about a situation before seeking advice, the Lord helps me to control my tongue and to ask for help in the right way.

Your Turn

What further would you suggest for Christi?