Today, while reading a book (Note: No, it wasn’t any of the three books    that I finished today, but another one whose review is forthcoming) I came across the following passage that I thought worthy to share:
“Let’s give further substance to the term evil report. Here is one working definition that we will use:
Evil report: When an individual maliciously injures, damages or discredits another’s reputation or character through the use of words or attitude.
If the intent is to hurt another person’s reputation, we must examine our motives.
Ungodly, damaging conversations. How often do we reamble casually and carelessly without any thought as to the repercussions in another person’s life! Common comments such as “Did you hear what Tom said to me?” or “I am really offended by Sally. Do you know what she did?” may seem innocuous at first. But if unchecked, this type of speech pattern leads to negative and critical comments about the people involved. It may degrade an individual, eventually creating an atmosphere that provokes others toward feeling wronged and upset and toward eventual separation. We might laugh about nominating certain individuals for the “Ministry of Hurts,” but the fallout from this person’s conversations leaves a pattern of pain and relationship separation.
Like most of you, I have been on every side of this issue–making the accusations, hearing the accusations, and bearing the brunt of the accusations. In so many of these situations, people (including myself) were misunderstood and injured and suffered emotionally. How can I be a light to the world when I am speaking and listening to darkness ?”
There was once a time in my own personally life when I paid little concern to rumor and gossip and innuendo, thinking it fairly obvious that anyone who sought to take a remotely sympathetic or complete view of my life would have no reason to believe the outrageous and false and hurtful slanders that other people are fond of inventing. However sanguine or phlegmatic I have have been about such matters in the past, recent experiences have demonstrated to me that there are people in this world who have a hunger for and a great desire to believe slanders and evil reports and a lack of interest in investigating the matter or questioning their own mistaken assumptions about my behavior and character. The severity of this matter, and its own consequences to my own life, have convinced me (at some cost to myself) of the seriousness of evil reports and their great capacity to cause harm. Where people listen to lies, assume them to be the truth, and are unwilling to question or correct their mistaken presumptions about others through personal investigation and gathering the facts before jumping to hasty and incorrect conclusions, a great deal of problems result.
As a writer whose tastes in writing tends towards the personal and the confessional, there is a constant concern with me about the sort of impression I give about other people. While I feel it necessary due to my own sensitivities to write about the issues that I face in life, especially those that keep recurring over and over again like an endless game of whack-a-mole, I understand that there are always other parties involved in any kind of personal issue, and that it would be immensely unkind to put other people in a deliberately bad light even as I was lamenting their own way of doing the same through nursing their own resentment or the resentment of others rather than providing encouragement (or taking the biblical advice) to go to the person who had caused offense (whether real or imagined) and sorting it out in private before the drama became public. While those people who do engage in such unrighteous patterns of paying heed to or spreading evil reports about me will generally take offense at even such general commentary I give, I wish to avoid sin by making the identification of people too public, as my intention is to deal with the evil and not embarrass others by committing the same sin I express my hostility for.
When we make it a habit to listen to the resentments and hurts of other people, and are inclined to believe them rather than to investigate the matter for ourselves, to encourage forgiveness and openness and honesty in dealings rather than backbiting and the sharing of private hurts from those who have not bothered to follow the biblical command to go to our brother (or sister) in search of reconciliation, or to cut off conversations before someone can go into “martyr” mode about the wrongs that so-and-so has done, we are committing a sin. The fact that this sin is nearly universal among humanity does not make it any less serious of a matter. It is worthy of note, for example, that quite a few of the sins listed in Romans 1:28-32 as being worthy of death for those that practice and approve of them relate to this topic, including being filled with maliciousness, strife, being whisperers, backbiters, undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving, and unmerciful. Whenever we show ourselves for having itching ears for evil news about anyone else from either a supposedly wronged person or a busybody third party, we are becoming partners in sin.
Several times in my own life I have witnessed the tragic effects of this sin when it rages unchecked. There are some people who love to spread lies, secretly and anonymously or to friends and family they believe will be sympathetic to them, or they are quick to lash out at others with false accusations while seeking to avoid having any kind of accountability and conversation from the attacked party about the mistaken nature of their presumptions. We all fall too easily into such patterns, and so we ought not to feel personally angry and upset at those who sin thusly towards us (although it is a challenge), but we all need to recognize and wrestle against that aspect of our nature ourselves, that part of us that nurses hurts we feel or that those whom we support feel and feeling justified in unkind and often untrue statements about others who are undeserving of our scorn and hatred and anger. An avoidance of feeding on our resentments and on negativity in general about others will greatly help us to behave towards others with the love and respect that we are commanded to by our Lord and Savior.
Quite honestly, we need all the help we can give to develop an attitude of humility and positivity about others, a desire to give the benefit of the doubt, to be merciful and understanding to others in light of our own fallibility, and to avoid the hunger for secret information and rumor and gossip that poison relationships between friends, family members, brethren, coworkers, and any other relationship we may have. At the root of so many of our relationship problems with other people lies a willingness to think, speak, and believe evil of others without having an attitude of forgiveness or even a desire to figure out the truth before we lash out in pain and hurt and resentment and bitterness. Our lives would all be so much richer and so much full of happiness and joy if we could even fight against the desire to speak and think and act viciously towards others on the basis of rumor and gossip. Given the conflict-ridden state of our world and of our lives, the problem of evil reports is one whose importance cannot be underestimated, and whose damage has been incalculable.
 Dr. Michael D. Sedler, Stopping Words That Hurt: Positive Words in a World Gone Negative (Bloomington, MN: Chosen Books, 2013), 16.