When Friends Talk About Us Behind Our Backs

(A re-post from Easter 2014)

It is always such a shock to discover friends (real friends!) are talking about us (critically) behind our backs. Sometimes, their motivations really are loving and God-honoring—they are seeking counsel, prayer, and encouragement for how to face a difficult situation. Sometimes, they are just speaking ill of us to others or sharing publicly something we entrusted to them in private.

Whatever the situation, it hurts. It can feel like betrayal and sometimes it is betrayal. There is a reason that James 3 describes the tongue with such strong language as “a world of unrighteousness,” “staining the whole body,” “a restless evil, full of deadly poison.” This is not hyperbole! As anyone who as ever been gossiped about and slandered knows full well.

Thus, I appreciated the reminders in this article by Matt Mitchell from EFCA Now and hope you do too:


Plus, of course, there is nothing like meditating on the most evil acts in all of history—the painful and shameful sufferings of the Son of God during Easter week—to help us to forgive friends who abandon and betray us, attacks we do not deserve, and unjust suffering.

The Perfect Lamb of God knows our sorrow. He is the Suffering Servant! And He knows pain we will never know because He has secured the fait accompli that God the Father will never turn His face away from us. We will never taste death or Hell. And in the face of these glorious truths? Comforted under His wing? We can turn again to our brother or sister with forgiveness and restoration. We can risk again. Maybe be hurt again, sure. But maybe, experience the sweetness of deep friendship and abiding love—a foretaste of Heaven.

May God help us to forgive our friends who hurt us! And May God help them to forgive us too.

For the glory of the Lamb,
Tara B.

Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness. For we all stumble in many ways. And if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body. If we put bits into the mouths of horses so that they obey us, we guide their whole bodies as well.

Look at the ships also: though they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things. How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness.

The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell. For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so.

Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and salt water? Can a fig tree, my brothers, bear olives, or a grapevine produce figs? Neither can a salt pond yield fresh water.

Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice.

But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.” (James 3 ESV)


About Tara Barthel

Tara Klena Barthel formerly served as the Director of the Institute for Christian Conciliation. As such, she oversaw hundreds of conciliation cases (including conflicted church interventions) through the international network of trained conciliators. Tara also provided oversight and leadership for all advanced conciliator training. Currently, she serves her family as a homemaker while occasionally accepting cases as a mediator, arbitrator, and conflicted church intervention team member. Currently enrolled at Reformed Theological Seminary and pursuing her Master's Degree in Religion, Tara consults with businesses and ministries on the legal risk management issues attendant to conflict; designs and presents custom training on biblical conflict resolution for churches, missions agencies, and parachurch organizations; speaks frequently at women’s conferences and retreats; and is currently working on many new writing projects. Tara is the author of the Living the Gospel in Relationships video series and co-author of Peacemaking Women—Biblical Hope for Resolving Conflict (Baker Books, 2005), and Redeeming Church Conflicts--Turning Crisis into Compassion and Care (Baker Books, 2012; second imprint Hendrickson Publishers 2016). Prior to moving to Billings, Montana to join the staff of Peacemaker Ministries, Tara worked as an attorney and business consultant in Chicago. Tara earned her law degree and M.B.A. from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, and her B.A. in psychology from Augustana College (Illinois).
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