Curiosity Killed the Cat: Listening When You Shouldn't
Having been raised on the cartoon television show, Tom and Jerry, I am accustomed to seeing Tom's curiosity lead to his demise. Time after time, he could not seem to learn that Jerry was craftier, perhaps wiser, and determined to make him look foolish. I do not think the old adage, "Curiosity killed the cat" derived from this cartoon show, but it was surely emphasized repeatedly.
Tom, however, is not the only one who is drawn by curiosity. We are, too. At times, walking down the aisle of curiosity can be good (e.g., trying an accent pillow on your sofa or attempting to duplicate a faux finish that you saw on a television show), but there are times when it is not. I have seen this version of curiosity lead to much damage in the church. What is it, you ask? It is in the title of this blog: "listening when you shouldn't."
I wish it were not so easy to get to this point. Our desires to express sympathy, coupled, perhaps, with curiosity, often take us to a place where we should not be. I recall a certain situation when a woman--let's called her, Susie--was extremely upset at one of her pastors. Susie concluded that the course of action this pastor took was wrong. Her response was to tell others in the church about it. Numerous people allowed her to "bend their ear," as the saying goes. One thing led to another and she eventually developed an entourage that supported her cause. There was great damage in the church as a result. Thankfully, the situation was eventually reconciled and Susie repented of her mischievous actions.
Should anyone, outside of those directly involved in the situation, have listened to Susie? She was hurting, had questions, and needed to share her concerns. It seems there is a way to help Susie without letting one's curiosity enable her to share the particulars of the situation. Let's face it. When turmoil is developing in the church, inquiring minds want to know. Unfortunately, trying to hear one side of a situation can too easily evolve into gossip and, as this specific situation demonstrated, additional (and unnecessary) conflict in the church.
If you notice someone is hurting, and that person begins to share the details of the situation, you may want to consider asking that individual to refrain from sharing specifics of the circumstances, which may include names, dates, location, etc. I know it may be difficult, but many times we have no business knowing all of the details. Do not let curiosity lead you down the wrong path. Do not let your desires to be sympathetic cause you to hear details you should not. You may end up getting involved in gossip, hearing false details, and making wrong conclusions. We need to be there for each during difficulties, but even then we must be cautious.
Yes, curiosity killed the cat, but apparently cats have nine lives. Listening when you should not is easy to repeat. Sometimes the damage is not readily apparent, which seems to justify your sympathetic ear. However, whether the stakes seem high or not, we should all be careful that we do not allow ourselves to listen to details to which we have no business listening.
reformation21 is the online magazine of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals. It is supported only by its readers and gracious Christians like you. Please prayerfully consider supporting reformation21 and the mission of the Alliance. Please donate here.