My rating: 4 of 5 stars
We all know it’s not a good thing to gossip. But have we ever considered that listening to gossip, negative talk or an “evil report’ about an individual or situation might be just as bad? That’s the premise of Stopping Words that Hurt: Positive Words in a World Gone Negative by Michael D. Sedler.
“It’s the purpose of this book to define and emphasize the magnitude of injury that takes place when we are involved in negative conversation,” says Sedler early in the book.
“Just listening to an evil report can do tremendous damage to your perspective, viewpoint and overall spirit” – Stopping Words that Hurt, Kindle Location (KL) 39 & 150.
Sedler, a trained counselor, social worker, educator, and pastor builds his case with lots of practical insights. In one of the first chapters he lists eight ways that speakers let us know they are about to give us what he calls “defiling information.” These include:
– Looks for support from you for beliefs, attitudes, and actions.
– Attempts to create disunity and division.
– Flatters and praises the listener.
– Exaggerates a situation to make it worse than it is.
In a chapter titled “Why do we gossip?” (Chapter 5) he likens an evil report to a locomotive “barreling down certain ‘tracks.’” One of these tracks is confusion. This can flesh itself out in us taking up another person’s offense and being overly concerned about the acceptance of those around us.
Confusion can shunt us onto the track of contamination (Chapter 7) where we are tempted to join in the negative conversation of backbiters, busybodies, complainers, slanderers, gossipers etc.
In other chapters Sedler unveils the cleansing process, the benefits of speaking healing words, and how to deal biblically with negative talk in various settings, including the church. In the final chapter he discusses the impact of our attitudes, words, and actions on our children and those who look up to us.
Sedler’s style is clear and easy to read. I enjoyed the illustrations he gives from his life. He quotes many Bible passages in their entirety and retells many Bible stories at length so sometimes I felt like I was reading sermons.
Though in the main I appreciated Sedler’s argument and the way he made his case, one of his tendencies bothered me. More than once when using a Bible example, he built his argument on a part of the story that he imagined or embellished from the Bible account. For example in the chapter “When Fear Talks” (Chapter 9), he retells the story of Mary and Martha and their response to Jesus not coming to heal Lazarus. Sedler interprets Martha’s conversation with Jesus as showing a lack of faith. He maintains this has been brought about through listening to the negative talk of neighbours:
“My impression is that Martha and Mary had been polluted by the words of those around them …. Mary and Martha were not able to seize upon their active faith because they had been polluted by discouragement and confusion …. Where did this ‘pollution and fear’ come from? The words spoken to Martha and Mary had indeed penetrated deeply. John 11:19 speaks of how people gathered around to ‘comfort’ them …. Was godly solace for the bereaved really taking place? More likely the comforters gave in to the temptation to speak negative comments about Jesus and his ‘unwillingness’ to come when He knew that His friends desperately wanted him” (KL 1422 and on).
These things may have been so but they really aren’t in the Bible. I take exception to writers spinning the Bible account to undergird their theories in such a way.
Aside from such quibbles, I would say that this is a book Christians young and old, new and mature, would do well to read. It contains practical wisdom that reveals how our negative attitudes and talk affect others and carries on to show how we can be contaminated by even listening to gossip, hearsay, complaining, and all kinds of “evil reports.” I would recommend this book for all those serious about safeguarding their spiritual health and the health of those whose lives they touch.
I received this book as a gift from the publisher (Bethany House – Chosen Books) for the purpose of writing a review.