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Lord, help us keep our mouths shut

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By Neila Schuhmann

Big, bold letters stated, "Lord help me this day to keep my big mouth shut." A family member had given a T-shirt printed with those words to my favorite aunt in the late 1970s.

Aunt Debbie was known for speaking her opinion in those days. Today, she's still opinionated, but certainly softer spoken.

I'm guessing it would be fair to say that most of us have been guilty at some point in our lives of speaking a little too freely. I've confessed the sin of the tongue - unfortunately more than once - in the confessional booth.

It's easy sometimes to simply spew from the mouth one's thoughts - especially when there's the comfort and security of a tightly knit group of friends or family.

When we girls get together, we like to call it "sharing." That term makes us feel better.

Gossip, though, is a hard habit to break.

But what happens when our opinions become public domain?

People get hurt. It's that simple.

We are a small town, and small-town gossip is nothing new. An educated guess is that it happens all across America. Every day.

Technology has provided us with a new, even greater tool for gossiping. And people are hurting more than ever because the gossip is there - in print - for the entire world to see.

I've been the "topic" of a gossip Web site. (See story on today's front page.) Ironically, it was said that "Nela [totally misspelled] says bad things about people." One blogger, whom I had apparently offended with my words at some point in the past, wanted me to "figure out" who he or she was. This person stated that he or she remembered me from my days in the "medical field." For the record, whoever you are, I've never worked in the medical field.

Luckily, my skin is tough enough that I was able to laugh off the whole charade.

But still, whoever you are, I'm truly sorry for offending you - even though I haven't, and probably never will have, any idea what I said or did to offend you.

Anyone who feels so strongly about something that they feel the need to post a written comment about it should at least have the guts to sign their name.

My stint on the gossip site was cake compared to what others have been through. The vicious, spiteful things that have been said lately have no doubt caused more pain to the targets than I can imagine.

We are imperfect people. We make mistakes. We hurt. And, yes, we all have a right to our opinions.

But that does not give us the right to hurt others with our words - whether they are truth or out-right lies - especially from the anonymity of a Web site. People know all too well that words can hurt. They don't need cyber critics to remind them.

My prayer: Lord, help me EVERY DAY to keep my big mouth shut.