What people say about you doesn’t matter

Have you ever discovered that someone has been telling lies about you? Maybe they haven’t been spreading lies about you around, but they believe a lie about you. Maybe it’s something you did or something you said, and somehow it got lost in translation or it got turned around. Regardless of how it happened or even what happened, you end up the butt of someone else’s antagonism.

It’s easy to believe lies about other people, especially if you don’t know them well. That’s why it’s so important to check all your facts before you take someone’s word for it. Not that anyone would willfully mislead another person (even though some people do). But it’s like those crazy news stories that float around on the internet that can’t possibly be true. It’s always good to check them out on Snopes.com or on other reputable news sites before you start spreading them around. The same is true when it comes to stories about people you know.

But that’s how you handle it when you’re hearing a rumor about someone else. What do you do when you find out that someone is spreading rumors about you?

nature-person-hands-girl_1577x1044Today’s verses are Psalm 109:1-5.

O God, whom I praise,
don’t stand silent and aloof
while the wicked slander me
and tell lies about me.
They surround me with hateful words
and fight against me for no reason.
I love them, but they try to destroy me with accusations
even as I am praying for them!
They repay evil for good,
and hatred for my love.

There are lots of ways to handle rumor spreaders. In my experience, it’s often good to address the person directly and kindly. Most of the time, the whole situation has developed because of a misunderstanding. More often than not, no one is truly at fault. There isn’t really a bad guy in the case of a miscommunication.

But every now and then you run into people who just want to hurt people. You can’t reason with them. You can’t explain anything. And even if you try to reason or explain, they won’t listen. They only hear what they want to hear, and they’re deaf to anything else. Ever run into one of those folks? They’re not a lot of fun to talk to, and they’re really not much fun to get into an argument with.

It’s always a good idea to address conflict when it arises. Address it immediately and address it to the person who has a problem with you directly. Address it humbly and graciously. Accept responsibility where you’re responsible, and ask forgiveness if you’ve done wrong. That’s your job as a Christ-follower. Beyond that, you can’t do anything else.

If that person continues to lie about you and spread rumors about you, there’s not much you can do about it. Not to be a downer, but that’s their choice. And it’s not your responsibility. The only recourse you have in that situation is to live the kind of life that contradicts everything they say about you.

Well, that’s not the only recourse, I suppose. You always have the same option David did, just like in this Psalm. He took it to the Lord. He asked God for help, for intervention.

But no matter if that person forgives you and lets it go, or if they continue to hate you and tell lies about you, it’s your job to love that person and pray for them. Honestly. Sincerely. Genuinely. Pray for them. Ask God to bless them. Ask the Lord to be real and apparent in their lives. That doesn’t mean you need to go out of your way to be kind to them, although if you can manage it, you might really shock them (which might be funny). But definitely love them as best you can.

And from there? Just keep moving forward. It’s hard for a people-pleaser like me to accept, but not everyone will like me. Not everyone will love me. The same is true for you too. But it doesn’t matter what people say about you; it matters how you choose to live.

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Is it confrontation or just plain criticism?

Has someone ever confronted you? If you’re a Christ-follower and you’ve made some really unChristlike decisions on purpose, has anyone ever come up to you and challenged you?

I know people who have experienced that, and I can’t imagine it’s pleasant for either person. And I think it’s important, especially if that person is a Christ-follower. If you’ve given your life to Christ, you shouldn’t look like everyone else. You should look like Jesus. And we may never get there, but that’s our goal. Or at least it should be. And that’s why we have each other–to help keep us accountable.

But what about for other issues? Has another Christ-follower ever confronted you about your lack of one-on-one time with God? Or about how little time you spend reading the Bible? Or about how often you volunteer to help others? Has anyone ever confronted you about those things?

If so, what did it do to your heart? Did it make you want to go sign up to volunteer right then because you love God so much? Or did it just make you really, really angry?

pedicure2Today’s verses are Romans 14:1-4.

Accept other believers who are weak in faith, and don’t argue with them about what they think is right or wrong. For instance, one person believes it’s all right to eat anything. But another believer with a sensitive conscience will eat only vegetables. Those who feel free to eat anything must not look down on those who don’t. And those who don’t eat certain foods must not condemn those who do, for God has accepted them. Who are you to condemn someone else’s servants? Their own master will judge whether they stand or fall. And with the Lord’s help, they will stand and receive his approval.

Confrontation is essential in our lives. We have to know how to do it, otherwise we’ll constantly be stepped on and undervalued. We’ll never stand up for the things that matter, because believe it or not, the world doesn’t much care for the things Jesus does.

But more often than not, I really think Christians take confrontation to the extreme. Granted, I know Christ-followers who have confronted believers with their sins, and it’s turned them around completely. But it isn’t the confrontation that did it. And it isn’t the person who spoke up. It’s the Holy Spirit in that believer’s life Who made the difference.

But what about those Christians who are trying to get the basics down? Do they need to be confronted? Or does your confrontation look and sound like criticism?

We mean well. I think we truly want to help other believers, because we have found such amazing joy in our own walks with Christ that we want others to share it too. But I think we forget that God made us unique, and that means we all serve Him differently.

It’s you know they’re sleeping around or abusing people or living a life that God says is wrong, that’s different, of course. But for a Christ-follower who is doing the best they can with what they have, please, just remember who you are and who their Father is.

It’s like the thumb criticizing the big toe because it isn’t doing a good enough job. But if you work an office job, of course your thumb gets more use than your toe does. You sit down all day. What matters is that when you stand up, your big toe holds its weight.

We’re all a part of God’s body. Some of us have been here longer than others, but we’re all one body. And criticizing each other discourages and demoralizes the members who are doing the best they can with the time and opportunity they have.

If someone wants to get closer to God, they’ll look for a way. If they want to know the Bible better, they’ll ask. If they want to serve, they’ll step up. God works in different people’s hearts in different ways, and that is between that person and God.

Don’t be afraid to invite people. Don’t be afraid to include others in what you’re doing. If you’ve got a great Bible study, ask others to come with you so they can hear what you’re learning. If you work in a ministry, invite others to come with you so they can see what you’re doing. But don’t tell them they aren’t working hard enough for God. That’s not your judgment call to make, and all you’ll do is hurt them.

Keep yourself in line. Be willing to share what God is doing in your life. And, honestly? Just chill out. God is responsible for helping people grow. Not you. If you get to be involved, it’s because God has invited you.

Raindrops on daisies at the Dallas Arboretum, Dallas, TX

We all need a little grace

It’s so easy to complain about people when they can’t hear you. Even if you’re saying true things, it’s a lot easier to say them when there’s no danger of being overheard. Why is that?

For me, I can tell you it’s because I hate confrontation. Even if it’s telling someone something they need to hear, that doesn’t mean they’ll accept it. That doesn’t mean they’ll be gracious. And I’m pathetic. I really am. All it takes to get me to tear up is a sharp word. And while I recognize the importance of a sensitive spirit, it doesn’t make living in the real world any easier.

But if it’s something you can talk about behind closed doors with people who weren’t involved, it’s something you ought to talk about with the person who started the problem.

Raindrops on daisies at the Dallas Arboretum, Dallas, TX

Raindrops on daisies at the Dallas Arboretum, Dallas, TX

Today’s verses are James 4:11-12.

Don’t speak evil against each other, dear brothers and sisters. If you criticize and judge each other, then you are criticizing and judging God’s law. But your job is to obey the law, not to judge whether it applies to you. God alone, who gave the law, is the Judge. He alone has the power to save or to destroy. So what right do you have to judge your neighbor?

We’ve all been there. Unscrew the halos. I’ve been there, and you’ve been there. Something happens. Somebody makes you angry. And instead of going to the person who made you angry, you stuff it down deep inside and press on.

But when the opportunity comes up in conversation with other, uninvolved people, you tell the story of what happened. And everyone shakes their heads. How unprofessional! How immature!

Be honest, grownups. You feel vindicated.

There’s something about having people agree with you that is cathartic. There’s something about having people on your side that makes you feel strong. But talking about your hurt feelings with people who didn’t hurt them is the easy path. And nobody who takes the easy way is usually ever called strong.

Talking about your problems with the person who offended you is the harder choice. Facing the person who made you angry or wrecked your day or whatever and communicating honestly with them is not only difficult, it’s terrifying. And for me, most of the time I convince myself it isn’t worth it.

Can you guess what happens when you take that route?

Yup. Nothing changes.

The problems that are still problems stay problems. And your resentment builds and builds and builds, and the person irritating you keeps doing what they’re doing without being held accountable. Why? Well, quite honestly, until you speak up and let them know that they’re irritating you, they probably don’t even know.

We all have different standards of professionalism. Some people are impossible to work with because their standards are so high. Others are impossible to work with because their standards are so low. It doesn’t mean necessarily that one perspective is wrong and one is right. It just means that we all need a little grace.

Give people the benefit of the doubt. Don’t sit back and let your temper build and build until you explode. And don’t be a coward and complain about the situation where they can’t hear. Do something about it. Granted, do something in love. But do something.

First, make sure that what’s bothering you isn’t actually your own issue. When we get stressed out, it’s so easy to blame people around us for our frustrations. But before you jump to conclusions, take a moment and assess your heart and your attitude.

If you can say with a clear conscience that the issue isn’t yours, then approach the person who’s irritating you. Let them know kindly, politely that they’re bothering you. Do it discreetly. Don’t make a big deal out of it. Don’t put on a show. Just be respectful, like you’d want them to be if they were approaching you.

If they choose to make it into a show, that’s their problem. If you’ve addressed them respectfully, reasonably, politely and they turn it into a confrontation, they’re the ones being ridiculous.

But you have to at least give them a chance to make things right before you give up on them. You have to give them the opportunity to realize that their behavior is bothering you before you label them as hopeless cases. If you skip that step, if you give up on them or label them before you’ve even given them a chance to change, you aren’t acting like Jesus.

Jesus is the King of second chances (and third chances, fortieth chances, one-hundred-and-eleventieth chances, etc). How often have we embarrassed Him with our behavior and how often has He labeled us as a lost cause?

That’s right. Never.

So why do we think that gives us the right to do the same with other people?

The One O'clock Gun at Edinburgh Castle, Edinburgh, Scotland

Agree to disagree

I don’t drink. That is a conviction in my life, something I have decided that doesn’t belong in my relationship with God. I take no issue with other people drinking (as long as getting drunk isn’t involved), and I have tried a sip or two of wine. But I will not drink on any sort of regular basis. For me, that isn’t a preference. It’s something I feel could become a major stumbling block in my life, so I have chosen not to do it.

I hate skirts, and I don’t particularly care for shorts. I like pants. I like jeans. But sometimes I have to wear a dress for work. Sometimes it’s appropriate to wear a skirt for business reasons. I’m not against it. Choosing to do it won’t place a stumbling block in my personal relationship with Christ. I’ll be uncomfortable (and I’ll probably grumble), but I can cope.

Coping with other people’s preferences isn’t that difficult. Coping with other people’s convictions can often be extraordinarily frustrating. I have many, many friends who have different preferences than I do. And I have even more friends who have different convictions than I do. And that’s absolutely fine. That’s awesome. Having a variety of friends from different backgrounds and in different age groups and life experiences and religions is a valuable gift.

Disagreeing on preferences is normal. Everyone likes or prefers different things. Coffee or tea? Winter or summer? Action movie or chick flick? Oxford comma or AP comma? Right? Disagreeing over preferences isn’t a big deal. Sometimes we make it a big deal, but if one person is willing to back off, usually the conflict can be resolved rather quickly. But the big problem comes when people clash over convictions. So what happens when you get to that point? What do you do when people disagree with your faith?

The One O'clock Gun at Edinburgh Castle, Edinburgh, Scotland

The One O’clock Gun at Edinburgh Castle, Edinburgh, Scotland

Today’s verse is Romans 12:18.

Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone.

s choices? How do you handle that? We’re supposed to do everything in our power to live at peace with others, like-minded believers and others included. If you are the sort of person who likes to call people out on what they believe, more power to you. But let me just say that if you intend to challenge someone’s faith, you’d better be completely sure about what’s true and what’s not, and you’d better be able to back it up.

I’ve had many conversations with people who’ve told me my faith is worthless because the Bible is a pack of lies. But when I challenge them in return, they tell me they’ve never read the Bible. So I won’t discuss it with them after that. I shut the conversation down because if they are going to challenge my faith without even bothering to understand what I believe and why, it’s not a discussion worth having.

Not trying to be harsh. Just being honest.

Generally speaking, I don’t challenge people’s faith or convictions. I figure people believe what they want to believe, and that choice is 100% entirely up to them. I’ll only speak up when my own faith is challenged or if someone is genuinely asking questions about it. I decided long ago not to be the sort of person who walks around with a bullhorn and a King James Version Bible looking for opportunities to beat sinners into submission. I’ve known too many people like that, and they aren’t high on my list of favorite people.

I would much rather be the person people come to over their own volition for advice and counsel and share my faith with them that way. And if you end up in that position, don’t be afraid to be open and honest about your faith. That person came to you for a reason. That means they saw something in you that was likeable and wise. So don’t screw it up by trying to sound uber-spiritual. Just be yourself. Tell them what you’ve learned about God. Most of all, just love them, but don’t compromise truth for love. That’s the worst mistake you can make.

You get truth from the Bible. You get truth from God. That’s where your convictions should come from, and, honestly, that’s where your preferences should come from too.

Is everyone going to agree with you? No way. I wish I could say they will, but they won’t. But if you strive to be honest and respectful and loving in everything you say, people will understand where you’re coming from. People aren’t always as closed minded as we think. Most of the time, if you really are a genuine Christ follower who tries to live like Jesus would, people who don’t live that way are inordinately curious. True Christ followers are puzzles to people who don’t know Him.

So be the kind of person who people want to approach. Let them ask their questions. Invite them. And then answer them truthfully with as much love as you can muster and a little bit extra that comes from the Holy Spirit and see what God does.

Don’t compromise the truth. It’s not written anywhere that compromise is required for peace between people. Sometimes agreeing to disagree is the best option. The only requirement for real peace between people is love.

What we have here is a failure to communicate

I hate confrontation. Even if it’s a situation where I have been wronged, I would rather just struggle through the ramifications instead of calling someone else on what they did to me. I know other folks who, while they don’t like confrontation, don’t have any trouble telling other people that they’ve been hurt. A part of me admires that. To be able to tell someone that they hurt you? Wow.

But I think there should be balance when dealing with hurt feelings between people. If you’re prone to whining or if you get your feelings hurt easily, you should realize that and consider whether or not the person who hurt you actually did it on purpose. And if you’re prone to spouting off or losing your temper, you need to realize that and consider how your words affect the people around you. And if you despise any sort of confrontation (like me) you also need to consider sucking it up and honestly telling people how you feel about things — because if people don’t know how you feel, they won’t know to stop doing the things that hurt you.

Matthew 18:15 talks about how to deal with a believer who has sinned against you. Note that it does say specifically that it’s how to deal with another believer who hurt you. Not a nonbeliever.

 15 “If another believer[d] sins against you,[e] go privately and point out the offense. If the other person listens and confesses it, you have won that person back.

This is my difficulty. I don’t speak up. If someone hurts me, I keep quiet about it and either blame myself for it (most often, whether it’s my fault or not) or I develop an unhealthy picture of the person who hurt me. Both responses are silly.

Now I know there are a lot of different applications for this verse, but this morning when I read it I really thought about how people don’t communicate with each other anymore. I’ve seen this happen a lot. Two people have a discussion, and one of them hurts the other person’s feelings. But instead of communicating with each other, they both stay quiet. That’s how resentment starts to build. I don’t know if they think they should be able to read each others’ minds or what. But staying quiet about it doesn’t work.

I am constantly amazed at how poorly people communicate with each other. At home. At work. At church. Whatever you’re doing, you need to communicate. People can’t read your thoughts. People don’t know what you’re thinking, what you’re feeling, and don’t assume that they do.

Most of the time, when we do communicate, we do it wrong. We tell other people that we’ve gotten our feelings hurt in a way that makes the whole situation worse. One thing I have learned is that when you do decide to stand up and tell the offender that you’ve been hurt, you need to do it humbly. Because there’s always a chance that you’ve misunderstood. And most of the time anything that you perceive as a sin against you was unconsciously done. So if you go barging into a confrontation, demanding that the person who hurt you apologize and turn from their wicked ways, how is that going to go over? Not well, I’d wager.

Be humble about it. Make sure they understand you love them and that you still want a relationship with them. Then tell them how they hurt you.

After that, one of two things will happen.

Either they will react with shock, completely uncomprehending that anything they did or said hurt you (this is most often the case). Or, they won’t care. They will realize that what they did or said hurt you and they won’t be willing to change or apologize or admit that they’re wrong — or if they admit they’re wrong, they will still keep doing it anyway.

If the first reaction, you’ve got a friend. Forgive them. Be friends. Communicate with each other. Live happily ever after. Whatever.

If the second reaction? Continue on to verse 16.

In either case, you have to communicate. And communication is difficult. Because you have two (or more) people who think differently and act differently and do everything differently, trying to have a relationship with each other that is mutually beneficial. It doesn’t matter if you’re talking friendship or dating or marriage. Two people communicating is always a risky business, and there’s always a chance that someone is going to get hurt.

But if you don’t communicate, you can’t be friends. If you don’t communicate, you can’t bless each other. If you don’t communicate, you can’t help each other. If you don’t communicate, you’ll never learn. So, as far as I’m concerned, even though communication is difficult and sometimes means you’ll have to confront other people with the things that hurt you, it’s worth the risk.