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First Thoughts

A Royal Lesson on the Rumor Mill from The Princess of Wales

“Prince William is having an affair!” “Another woman is pregnant with his baby!” “Princess Kate can’t be seen in public because William hit her!” “She is filing for divorce, and another royal marriage is ending!”

Those were a few of the reports making the rounds in the last few weeks as the world was ripe with speculation about the reason why the Princess of Wales had not been seen in public for months. Those reports were widespread and viewed by millions of people all over the globe. Of course, we now know those reports are complete fabrications. The princess has announced that the reason for her retreat from public view is the discovery of cancer during her planned abdominal surgery in January. It has taken months to heal from surgery, begin cancer treatment, and explain her condition to her young children.

This whole situation provides at least three powerful and painful lessons about the way the rumor mill works.

Terrible Things Don’t Need to Be True to Be Believed

For weeks, people have received millions of views on their social media channels speculating about how broken William and Kate’s marriage must be. Pictures have circulated of women who were William’s likely mistresses. Kate was encouraged to stick it to her no-good husband.

But the best evidence we have is that while all that was being said William was standing by his wife, helping her heal, and encouraging her as the couple sought to parent their children. That was the truth, but what was believed were terrible lies.

There is a lesson for those who spread and those who believed such terrible things. That lesson has to do with the darkness in our hearts that assumes the worst, invents stories, and spreads false information in the absence of facts.

Proverbs 18:8 says, “The words of a gossip are like delicious morsels; they go down into the inner parts of the body.” This passage of Scripture describes much of our problem. We sinners love a juicy piece of gossip like we love a thick steak (or salad!). We love to hear the tale, and we love to tell it. Whether it’s true is unimportant. All of us who got wrapped up in this need to take a look in our hearts and repent.

Terrible Lies Do Immense Damage

The lies we told and believed are not neutral. While all of us were swapping fake stories about an issue without facts, real people were being hurt. While we were giddy with false speculation, a mom with cancer had to read our rumors about her husband’s adultery.  Global news sites ran the names and photographs of his potential partner, her husband, and their child. Can you imagine the shock and pain at your kitchen table if the world was sharing, without evidence, that you were involved in a royal affair?

The Bible is clear that our words bring about destruction, “With his mouth the godless man would destroy his neighbor” (Proverbs 11:9). It is a lie that people in the public eye open themselves up to this kind of destruction. No one deserves to be treated this way. Royalty or not, my heart has broken for the tears I know have been shed by innocent people digesting the filth we have thrown during a time that was already painful enough.

In a Social Media World, If You Don’t Tell the Truth of Your Story, Others Will Tell a Lie

I grew up in an age of landlines and snail mail. Back then, it took a lot more energy to spin the rumor mill. Today, you can spread an untrue and painful story to the entire world with one post from your phone. The problem is not social media. The problem is us. This technology merely exposes the sinister intentions of our hearts.

In a world where gossip can be spread with such ease and terrible stories are believed at rates far greater than wonderful ones, most of us will not have the luxury of avoiding a correction of the truth. This is especially true for anyone serving in a role built on trust, whether pastors or princesses. When falsehoods spread, a refusal to tell the truth simply condones the lie.

It would be nice if people could be depended on to suspend judgment and believe the best, but that’s not reality. We ignore reality at our peril.

Learning the Lesson

I hope all of us who are Christians can learn the lesson from this tragic ordeal. I hope we can repent in our hearts of our love for the terrible and untrue. I hope we can ask God for grace to be quicker to hear and slower to speak (James 1:19). And I hope the next time life gives us an opportunity, we will be much slower to spin the rumor mill.

Dr. Heath Lambert is the Senior Pastor of First Baptist Church in Jacksonville, FL. He is the author of several books, including The Great Love of God: Encountering God’s Heart for a Hostile World. 

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