Dr. Marni Halvorson (Head of School, Covenant Day School)
Dear Christian school parent,
When something occurs that we h ave questions about, it’s not uncommon to ask others their impression or understanding. This happens frequently in connection to situations or circumstances at our Christian school. Perhaps a teacher gives an assignment to students that is unclear to a parent, or a child relays comments made in the classroom that are unsettling. A parent may turn to other parents in the carpool line for their assessment of the situation rather than going directly to the teacher. At times this fact finding clears confusion and it is back to business as usual. Other times, however, the communication begins to take on a different perspective. Second hand information can slip into idle talk or rumor; that is, we have become involved in gossip. This is true not only of parents and the carpool line; there are occasions when a teacher standing at the photocopier may ask another teacher a question that really is best directed back to a parent instead.
Words have tremendous power! They can be used for building up or for tearing down. In The Purpose Driven Life, author Rick Warren writes, “Refuse to listen to gossip. Gossip is passing on information when you are neither part of the problem nor part of the solution” (164). Note that gossip is not defined as untrue information; rather information that we are not to pass along because we are not directly involved as the source of the matter nor as the resolution thereof. What begins as perhaps an off-hand remark can morph into a communication that ultimately is highly inflammatory.
Jerry Bridges, in his book Respectable Sins, makes the point that the Bible is filled with warnings about the sins of the tongue, including gossip (159). Sin is sin, and even sins of the tongue are offensive to God. Unfavorable information can be extremely damaging. Often in the telling and re-telling, a communication “grows” details or the story gets twisted and distorted. We Christians are called to a higher standard. Scripture clearly warns us in Prov. 20:19, “A gossip betrays a confidence; so avoid a man who talks too much.” Prov. 26:20 adds, “Without wood a fire goes out; without gossip a quarrel dies down.”
We want our Christian school to be a place where gossip finds no welcome. Our faculty and staff are working to be conscientious about not spreading gossip. We have challenged ourselves to be accountable in this area. We do not want to be the source of the problem through our own words; we do not want to be the subject of someone else’s idle talk or rumor; we want to avoid being caught up as listeners.
We know that it can be awkward to find yourself near the front end of what is quickly revealing itself to be gossip. It takes spiritual sensitivity and boldness to say, “Please stop. I don’t need to hear this. Have you spoken directly to that person?” It may be uncomfortable for most of us to make such a direct request. But we want to use the gift of language in the manner God intended, to encourage and edify. Eph. 4:29 boldly directs us: “Let no unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.”
If you agree that we have taken on a worthy challenge, would you join us in replacing gossip with Godly conversation? We commit to doing our best to assure that you have clear and open channels to teachers, administrators and coaches so that you will have timely and accurate information, especially as it relates specifically to your son or daughter. We also commit to assuring you that your communications with us are handled with respect and confidentiality.
May God be pleased with our communications as well as our motives and actions; and may He be honored as we give grace to everyone who hears us speak.