Unfortunately most of us have been there — we hear through the grapevine about some lude tales that have been told about us. Maybe it was something at work, or maybe it was a family member or close friend (or thought to be close friend) that went off the deep end. Hurt sets in, feelings of “why” questions of what steps to take follow. Should I go set the record straight? Will anyone believe me when I tell them the truth? Do people believe the horrible lies being spread about me now? Don’t they know me better than to believe these things? Why would someone go out of their way to defame my character? Why?
Feelings of betrayal and anger set in. Sometimes there may be motivation to go set the matter straight — especially if it is a situation at work. Feelings of hurt, shame and embarrassment. You find yourself dealing with a problem that you did not create, dealing with a tarnished reputation, wondering how far the false words voyaged. Should you call the person that heard the gossip and set the record straight, or go on not knowing what type of damage is being done to your character.
These blows hurt. They hurt our pride, they fill us with worry, and they feed our insecurities. What if you could shout the truth from a mountain? What if you could let the whole world know what your character is like? There is a way!!! The way we live our lives daily, builds a wall of protection for us. The more we do good, love others, seek truth, and do that which is right, the less believable these tales are, when these situations tragically arise. Building a foundation of excellent character is the best proactive way to protect from slandering, and continuing in uprightness is the best reactive method. Let you actions, and the way you live your life, shout more loudly and travel more speedily than false rumors are able to. There are times when we do need to address some issues, for example if it effects your children, your workplace, or other non-negotiables, however some times it may be best to keep your chin up, a smile on your face, and proceed with dignity.
There are different motivators for slander and false defamation of character. Two motives that seem to consistently take the cake are: 1. Jealousy and 2.Attention Seeking.
- Jealousy is pretty simple to understand; perhaps you are a number one performer at work, perhaps a co-worker becomes envious of the approving mentions associated with your name during team meetings — next thing you know he’s not only searching for an achilles heal, but he’s creating scenarios that never existed. The hope is that he can lower the way you are viewed to a point where there is a level view of both of you, or that perhaps he can slander you in such a way that the he sinks the viewpoint of you to even lower than his! Although this sounds dreamy to a common slanderer — the good news is this is not usually a successful plight.
- Attention Seeking can sometimes be a bit harder to put your finger on. Generally this plays out when there is a desire for attention, and no tools to gain positive fulfillment. Perhaps an ex-lover, ex-co-worker, an ex-friend, or a school parent begins to form a habit of slandering your name. With a simple glance this can appear to be done out of dislike — they just don’t like you, so they want to be mean — however with a closer, more in depth look, the true motive can be revealed. Let’s parallel the two motives. When someone dislikes another person generally they try to avoid interactions, and avoid any reason to communicate together. When someone is seeking attention, they will do almost anything to get it. Children start to act out to gain more attention from their parents, even if the attention is negative, it fulfills the desire to be nurtured, communicated with, and cared for. Adults (especially if that method turned out to be effective as a child) use the same method — although a bit more polished looking — find that they are able to push buttons by spreading false rumors and accusations, which in turn trigger communication from the desired source. Even though the communication is negative, they are able to get attention from the person on target. Slander is a way that many times insures a lot of attention.
So how do we silence the slander? We use our discernment. If the slander is causing problems with a non-negotiable, we follow up and set the record straight. If we are dealing with slander such as the attention seeking type, we give the method zero results. As hard as it is to swallow your pride, and walk away from the desire to “tell them a thing or two” or to “share your side of the story” the best thing possible is to starve the hungry beast. By reacting to the attention seeking slander, you are giving the slanderer a success! They taste sweet victory and are sure to get another bite by firing off again.
How do we deal with the betrayal? We turn the other cheek. We forgive seven times seventy. “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye and tooth for tooth.’ 39But I tell you not to resist an evil person. If someone slaps you on your right cheek,turn to him the other also; 40if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well;…”
On the night of the last supper, Jesus knew who was betraying Him. He knew where the false loyalties were. He picked up a basin, filled it with water, and began wiping the dirt off Judas’ feet. He humbled Himself. He lowered Himself below that of His betrayer. He served, while setting an example of true humility and beautiful selflessness. We are to be wise as serpents, gentle as doves, and as humble and selfless as Jesus.