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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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?

Bright, beautiful macaws at the Omaha Zoo, Omaha, NE

When is it wise to just shut up?

I like to talk, especially if I’m talking about a subject I love. Like writing. Or science fiction. Or anything BBC.

Talking is fun. Sharing stories is fun. Boy, have I got some whoppers too. I don’t like being in front of people, but for the sake of a good story, I’ll shove my introvertedness to the corner and let it go (no Frozen reference intended, but oh well…..).

But are there times when talking hurts more than it helps? Are there times when we just need to shut up, even if we know the answer?

Bright, beautiful macaws at the Omaha Zoo, Omaha, NE

Bright, beautiful macaws at the Omaha Zoo, Omaha, NE

Today’s verse is Proverbs 10:19.

Too much talk leads to sin.
    Be sensible and keep your mouth shut.

Sometimes the Bible is really blunt, and it makes me laugh. And then I get to thinking about what it’s talking about, and I stop laughing.

Have you ever been in that place? Where you cross the line from just shooting the breeze to saying too much? I’ve been there. And I’m pretty sure I’ve turned bright red.

But then, I’ve met people who say too much and don’t seem to care. They can talk-talk-talk away about a subject they don’t really understand, offering their opinions about it as though it’s fact just because they believe it. But when someone confronts them with facts, they don’t back down. Usually they just change the subject.

I like to be in the loop as much as the next person. I like to know what’s happening around me in the news, at my office, in my family as much as anyone. But I don’t know everything. And talking about it like I do isn’t helpful. It’s hurtful, because I end up making assumptions about people that may or may not be true.

I work in marketing. I’m not a very good marketing person, but I know how to turn a phrase. And one thing I had to learn very quickly was negative perceptions can damage a brand irreparably.  It doesn’t matter if you have the best product on the market, if your ads are unprofessional or if your sales people are unprofessional, people will think your product is sub-par.

It works the same way in groups of people. You may know a person who is awesome, full of compassion and integrity and love. But all it takes is someone else spreading rumors behind his or her back to turn that earned reputation on its head. I wish it weren’t that easy to do, but it is.

It’s human nature to believe the worst about each other. That’s one of the reasons why 1 Corinthians 13 is so important–talking about how the love that comes from the Spirit always thinks the best about each other. Thinking the best about each other, speaking well of each other, doesn’t come naturally to us.

It’s human nature to tear down. It’s human nature to manipulate and gossip.  It’s human nature to want to be at the center of controversies. But if you belong to Christ, you aren’t subject to your human nature any longer. That doesn’t mean your human nature shuts off. No, that means it has to shout louder to get your attention, but if you belong to Christ, you have another option. You don’t have to stick to your human nature. You can do what Jesus would have done.

Instead of spreading hearsay or your own assumptions, you can speak truthfully. Or not at all. Think about what you say before you say it. Words are tools–powerful creations that can help or hurt, so use them wisely.  Use them sparingly.

I’ve been in that place before where I’ve said too much and I’ve had to take responsibility for it. It’s not fun. And it takes time to rebuild trust after hurting people with what I’ve said.

So don’t even go there. If you’re prone to talking too much, be vigilant about it. Maybe you think you’re doing everybody a favor by bestowing your wisdom, and if you really are sharing your story with humility and love, then awesome. But even then, there’s a time and a place for it. If you feel God telling you to share, do it.

But if you’re just trying to get attention, if you’re just wanting a moment of spotlight, or if you’re trying to start something? Take it from someone who’s been there and done that, have the wisdom to keep your mouth shut.