A World War II poster reads, ‘Careless words cost lives’. So when you hear something negative about someone, ask yourself four questions.
First, is it true? ‘You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor’ (Exodus 20:16 NKJV). That’s one of the Ten Commandments, not the ten suggestions! Until you are certain it’s true, say nothing. Wait; time always reveals the truth.
Second, is it confidential? Did you hear it as a result of someone else’s having broken a confidence? If you speak it, will you be contributing to the violation of a confidence? Remember, ‘Whoever goes about slandering reveals secrets, but he who is trustworthy in spirit keeps a thing covered’ (Proverbs 11:13 ESV). Your usefulness to God requires that you don’t sacrifice your integrity by betraying trust.
Third, is it helpful? Will it tear others down or build them up? Satan is devoted to pulling down, discouraging and defeating; don’t be his accomplice. ‘Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen’ (Ephesians 4:29 NIV). Will it be beneficial and encouraging to those who hear it?
Finally, is it necessary? Stop and ask yourself, ‘What do others gain by my saying it, or lose by my not saying it?’ Always keep this in mind: you are more likely to regret the things you said than the things you didn’t. ‘A fool uttereth all his mind: but a wise man keepeth it in till afterwards’ (Proverbs 29:11 KJV). Be wise, be careful what you say.