One reader brought up the issue of listening to slander. Is it a sin for us to listen to another woman slander her husband? And what do you do or say when a conversation with a friend veers into slanderous territory?
First of all, the problem we women have with listening to slander is that frankly, it might be interesting and juicy information about another person. Interesting and juicy in a sinful, unloving way, that is. Love does not rejoice at wrongdoing, after all. Secondly, I think we've tricked ourselves into believing that full honesty is always necessary in a friendship. If we aren't sharing every single thing we think with a friend or allowing a friend to share every nitty-gritty detail about their marriage, then we tell ourselves that our friendship is not authentic and "real". And thus slander - and listening to slander - is often justified. Here's what Elisabeth Elliot has to say about that, "There is a common belief that a frank expression of what one naturally feels and thinks is always a good thing because it is 'honest'. This is not true. If the feelings and thoughts are wrong in themselves, how can expressing them verbally add up to something good? It seems to me they add up to three sins: wrong feeling, wrong thought, wrong action." (Discipline: The Glad Surrender, p. 63) If what a friend is expressing about her husband is slanderous, is it ok to allow ourselves to listen? Is it ok to allow them to continue slandering without saying a word, under the guise of being "sympathetic"?
So, those are my thoughts...I will leave you with the thoughts of two older-than-me, godly women from my church. How and why should we approach a friend who is slandering a friend?
Honestly I have recently come to the conclusion that listening to slander is sin. I had an opportunity to share with someone recently because my daughter had to listen to her slander her husband...if I am in the place where I would have to confront someone, first I would pray. Then I would share my heart gently on Proverbs 31:11 and encourage the person to stop damaging the most precious earthly relationship God has given them. I think the disloyalty of slander and emotional adultery are closely related. I have also seen the damage it does to marriage and a husband's heart. When I stand before the Lord I don't want to regret spending my life in a bad marriage because of my pride and selfishness. God has an abundant marriage for every Christian couple if we will submit to Him. Anytime we humbly and lovingly confront sin with a heart that realizes that we are capable of the same it won't come off as self-righteousness. In Christian confrontation we must be obedient to Christ and leave the results to Him.
...as to the thought that it is sin to listen to slander, I think there could be some validity to that. First, listening sometimes can suggest acceptance, especially if it there is no encouragement to direct the one who slanders to go to the offending party or seek out someone who could be part of the solution. Second, listening to slander can be a temptation for the hearer to be led to gossip themselves. A third thought could be is it sin to “allow” another to sin by slandering, by stopping the person by saying something like, “you know, XXX, I think you are moving into a dangerous area that is called ‘slander’. It’s not good for your heart to say these things and it’s not right for my mind to receive them. It wouldn’t be right for me to allow you to continue."