Sophia and the Four Way Test by Astrid Leighton

The Rotary Club of Pismo Beach / Five Cites
Astrid Leighton, Second Place
Grade 9, Coastal Christian School
Teacher: Alison Limon Principal: Larry Hoekman

Sophia walked to school with a smile on her face. She loved school, she loved the teachers, but most of all, she loved the students. As she walked through the school halls, she overheard her classmates whispering about her friend, Julia.

“Did you know that Julia has a crush on Ryan?” Skylar, Sophia’s classmate, asked her friend, Anna.

“What?! Really? He’s so ugly, though.” Anna said with a snicker.

Sophia stared in horror.

Gossip is everywhere. It hides behind buildings and in locker rooms. It lurks in dark rooms and in empty places. People constantly spread rumors and backstab others. Gossip spreads like a deadly disease. Coming across it is inevitable. When hearing gossip, one must ask himself the four questions of the Four-Way Test: “Is it truth?”, “Is it fair to all concerned?”, “Will it build goodwill and better friendships?”, “Will it be beneficial to all concerned?” These questions must be applied to any situation in life to help reduce conflict.

When Sophia heard this gossip, she asked herself “Is it truth?” Does Julia like Ryan? Yes, this is true because Julia privately told Sophia she did. Sophia’s classmates had no right to go spreading around Julia’s secrets. Julia would be humiliated if other people teased her about it. The outcome of the gossip would be tension toward her classmates. When Sophia asked herself this question, she considered the outcome of the conflict and did not want Julia’s shameful secrets to be exposed.

The second question Sophia asked herself was, “Is it fair to all concerned?” Should those girls be sharing Julia’s private matters without her knowledge? If someone such as Julia had a secret, they would share it with only the select people they chose. Julia would not have wanted those girls to secretly spread her secrets to others. She would feel betrayed, hurt, disappointed, and irritated at her classmates for invading her privacy. “A gossip betrays a confidence, but a trustworthy person keeps a secret.” (Proverbs 11:13) It is Julia’s own right to reveal her secrets, not her friends’ right. This means that gossip is not fair in any way to its victim.

The third question Sophia asked herself was, “Will it build goodwill and better friendships?” Would the sharing of Julia’s secret make others feel joyful and build better friendships between Julia and her classmates? The unauthorized sharing of secrets would only tear relationships and increase bitterness. “Fire and swords are slow engines of destruction, compared to the tongue of a Gossip.” (Richard Steele) In addition, Julia would be teased by her other classmates when they heard the rumors. Gossip would only create more drama and hardship for her and would be a benefit to nobody.

The fourth question Sophia asked herself was, “Will it be beneficial to all concerned?” Were Sophia’s classmates doing a favor to Julia and themselves? Julia would be hurt if she found out that these girls were spreading her secret, and the girls would only create more trouble for themselves and Julia. Ephesians 4:29 says, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” Gossip definitely does not build others up, so it should not be perpetuated.

Sophia concluded that this gossip should be stopped immediately, so she told her classmates to stop gossipping.

The Four-Way Test questions are critical in resolving everyday problems. By considering these four questions, one can have a better understanding of any situation and a way to resolve it. When Sophia considered these questions, she had a clear understanding of the situation and was able to settle it. These four questions function to strengthen relationships and character. If one simply considers these questions in the midst of a situation, he will have a satisfying result.

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