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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God can help an honest person

Some time back, I heard an interview with Brian Williams, the news anchor who exaggerated his adventures as an embedded journalist in the Middle East. I don’t know much about the story. I haven’t followed it, so I don’t know the details. But he did lie. He told stories that weren’t true about things that happened to him. And in the interview he gave, he tried to justify his actions by claiming he didn’t mean to mislead anyone.

Seems kind of weird though, to tell a lie yet claim that you didn’t mean to mislead people. But that’s part of the rationalization we all do when we tell a half-true. I mean, it’s not like you’re even lying. You’re just not sharing the whole truth, and you’re only doing it because the whole story is too complicated. Or it’s too painful. Or it will upset too many people.

No, it’s better to just tell half the facts and let others infer what they want, right? It’s not like you’re willfully deceiving anyone. They’re the ones making up their minds about what you’re saying.

There’s something in our brains that tells us this sort of thinking is okay, but one thing I’ve learned about lies and half-truths, both: You can’t stop with just one.

person-woman-art-creative-smallToday’s verses are 1 Peter 3:10-12.

For the Scriptures say,
“If you want to enjoy life
and see many happy days,
keep your tongue from speaking evil
and your lips from telling lies.
Turn away from evil and do good.
Search for peace, and work to maintain it.
The eyes of the Lord watch over those who do right,
and his ears are open to their prayers.
But the Lord turns his face
against those who do evil.”

Lying is easy, especially when you’re trying to cover up something you’ve done that you don’t want to admit. Telling the truth is hard. Telling the truth requires humility, the willingness to accept the fact that you screwed up.

Let’s face it. We all screw up. And the more we try to be perfect, the more we screw up because we’re depending on our own strength rather than God’s. When you lie, you’re trusting yourself to find the answer for your problems. When you choose to lie, you’re telling God you don’t want His help, and He’ll honor that. If you’re intent on doing things your own way, He’ll let you.

I love the Bible. It’s practical and simple. Want to know the secret to a happy life you can enjoy? Don’t speak evil, don’t lie, and do good. Notice it says to turn away from evil, meaning that you have a choice. When you encounter evil, regardless of what it may be, you have the option to not give into it. You can seek peace. You can do right. You can look for the Lord.

And that also tells me that even if you’ve done evil in the past, if you turn away from it today, God will hear you. It doesn’t say that God watches over people who’ve never done wrong. It says God watched over people who do right. Present tense. Yesterday doesn’t matter.

We live in a culture of blame and semantics. We point fingers like it’s an Olympic sport. It’s never my fault. It’s always someone else’s. And it may feel easier to let a little white lie slip, thinking you’ll get away with it, but you won’t. Lies and half-truths have a way of coming back to bite you just when you least expect it. And when they come back around, they’re much bigger than the little white lie you let slip. And if you’re a Christ-follower? (Yes, Christ-followers lie sometimes too.) Oh, you know better than to choose to go against what God says is right.

And, yes, lying may be easier at first, but give it time. And a few years down the road, you’ll be in consequences so deep you’ll desperately wish for the chance to make a different choice.

Telling the truth today means you have to own up to your failures. It means you have to admit you’ve done wrong. It might even mean you have to disappoint someone you love. But honesty truly is always the best policy, because God can help an honest person. And other people can too.

No, it won’t be fun, but that’s the result when you screw up. There are consequences. Better to face them now rather than ten years down the road when they’ve turned into a tidal wave threatening to pound you into a pulp.

And the good news? God knows. He knows your heart. And He’s never turned anyone who came to Him seeking away.

Looking for the light when all you see is darkness

Everyone knows that one person who always sees the bright side. They’re sickening, aren’t they? The ones who pipe up in the dark moments with the obscure silver lining that’s absolutely true and positively irritating? I know, because I’m one of those people. Practically Pollyannish, people have called me. Unfailingly cheerful to the point of living in denial.

It’s true that those overly positive people can make you want to claw your eyeballs out or plug your ears (or at least stuff a sock in their mouths), but the reason they’re so irritating is that we know they’re right. Especially if you’re a Christ-follower, you know there’s always a bright side. Now, that doesn’t mean we can’t be sad. That doesn’t mean we should grieve. But it does mean that grief and sorrow shouldn’t ever get the better of us, because God is stronger.

We don’t have to live in darkness, because if you follow Jesus, you can always look for the light.

Today’s verses are Micah 7:7-8.

As for me, I look to the Lord for help.
I wait confidently for God to save me,
and my God will certainly hear me.
Do not gloat over me, my enemies!
For though I fall, I will rise again.
Though I sit in darkness,
the Lord will be my light.

What is light anyway? It’s all well and good to talk about light and darkness in symbolic terms. It’s very poetic, but I’m practical. What does it even mean?

All throughout the Bible, God calls Himself the Light. Jesus calls Himself the Light. The Word is called the Light. What do all those things have in common? Well, one major thing is that They’re all 100% true. God can’t lie. Neither does Jesus, neither does the Bible. God’s truth is light that shines in the darkest moments of our lives.

Even when we’re surrounded by the darkness of fear and uncertainty or loneliness or sorrow or pain, what we need to remember is that all those things will lie to us. Fear and uncertainty tell us we’ll never be good enough. Loneliness and sorrow and pain tell us that this life is all there is. And that’s not true.

In those moments when the darkness threatens to overwhelm you with its lies, remember the truth. Let God’s light in. Stop hunkering in the shadows, letting our enemy whisper his devious lies to you to break you, to stop you, to scare you. That’s what he’s doing. Don’t let him.

Instead, get up and look for the light. Look at your situation and try to see God in it. If you’re a Christ-follower, He’s there somewhere. He may not be obvious, but He’s present. He probably won’t be where you expect Him to be, but He’s there. But you don’t have to acknowledge Him for Him to work. He’ll do His part without your knowledge, but if you can see Him, it makes life a lot easier.

On one hand, it’s irritating to be around people who always see God working. They just have this effusive cheerfulness that nothing seems to touch. And in some cases, that’s bad, because humans need to feel. We all experience sorrow and sadness, but if we don’t allow ourselves to feel it–to admit to feeling it–and to learn to manage it, we’ll run ourselves into the ground.

Even negative emotions have a purpose, and you should never ignore them. Just don’t try to face them without God’s help. You won’t get through life without falling. Everyone falls, but you don’t have to stay there. Get up. Look for God’s light. And don’t stop until you find it.

So don’t let the darkness slow you down. Don’t let the lies break your spirit. God has plans for you, friend. He’s seen them, and they’re good.

 

Delusion, indolence, and the American Way

I don’t want to go to work today. So, I am going to stay home and watch DVDs of Batman: The Animated Series. And I’m going to believe that my boss won’t care if I don’t show up today. After all, she’s just another person working at the company, and she doesn’t have any real authority over me. Boss is just a title, and it doesn’t mean anything. And it’s not like they can fire me. Right?

What would you think if I said something like that? And what would you think if I said something like this:

  • “My seatbelt rubs my neck raw and it’s more trouble than it’s worth, so I don’t wear it anymore. People are just exaggerating about how it can save your life in a wreck.”

Or what about this:

  • “All the stuff people say about smoking cigarettes is so overrated. People just make a big deal out of it because they can. Maybe it’ll increase my chances for cancer, but they won’t kill me. And it’s my choice to smoke or not and it makes me feel better, so I’ll smoke if I want to.”

So . . . are you paying attention yet? If I were to say any of those things, I think people would believe I’ve finally had that nervous breakdown my brain has been threatening. But these statements are fairly common in our culture, don’t you think? I don’t know about you but I hear things like this all the time.

I don’t care who you are. If you think smoking won’t hurt you, you’re an idiot. I’m sorry to be so brutal . . . . well, no, I take it back. I did a post a little while ago about saying you’re sorry when you really aren’t . . . . so, I won’t apologize. I’m sorry if you get your feelings hurt, but I need to be honest here and I’ll do my best to speak the truth in love.

When you smoke, you’re inhaling chemicals into your lungs and you’re holding them there. That just doesn’t sound healthy to me. People die of smoke inhalation in fires all the time, and we still have this concept that smoking is okay?

The interesting thing about smoking, though, is that people who smoke oftentimes know the risks involved and they just don’t care. I don’t know if they think they’re like Superman — that the consequences of smoking don’t apply to them? Or maybe they need the drugs in the cigarettes more than they care about living. I don’t know.

And what about wearing your seatbelt? I’d say it’s pretty obvious that seatbelts save lives. I’m not a paramedic, but common sense suggests that seatbelt prevent people from getting hurt worse in an accident that could claim their lives. I don’t know where I would be if I hadn’t been wearing my seatbelt when I had my wreck. I probably would have been splattered all over the pavement.

Again, if straightforward communication about this offends you, don’t take it personally. I’m just trying to get people to think.

And what about your boss and your job? I don’t know about you, but if I suddenly decided that I didn’t feel like going to work and decided to stay home (especially without notifying anyone), I’d be in deep trouble. And my boss wouldn’t care that I’ve had a horrible week. I have responsibilities, and I can’t just drop everything and do what I want to do. They hired me for a reason. And they absolutely can fire me if they want to. Telling myself anything different is moronic.

And that’s the point I’m getting to this morning.

Any thinking person can take these three examples and see immediately what the right thing to do is. Any person who is thinking can see the truth here.

Smoking will kill you. Not wearing your seatbelt is inviting danger. Shirking your responsibilities at work will get you fired. It doesn’t matter what you tell yourself to rationalize your actions in these situations. This is the truth.

Someone once told me that a statement becomes truth when you believe it.

That’s a load of balogna. (It’s actually a load of something else, but I won’t say that here.)

Truth by its very nature is exclusive, and it doesn’t matter how much you deny it, if something is true, it’s true whether you believe it or not. And you deciding that you don’t want to believe it is like a child having a temper tantrum because they want to believe a red balloon is blue.

This is today’s verse:

Psalm 14:1

1 Only fools say in their hearts,
      “There is no God.”
   They are corrupt, and their actions are evil;
      not one of them does good!

I know people who say that there is no God. Most of the time, they’re like people who say the things listed above. The know the truth. But accepting the truth means they have to be accountable to Someone who knows more than they do. So it’s easier to deny the truth and make up some other story to believe.

The Bible says those people are fools.

The sky is red. The grass is purple. Drinking doesn’t hurt you. Having sex before marriage is a good way to know if you’re compatible with someone else. A baby is just a wad of tissue until it’s fully born. The terrorists on September 11 had every right to attack the U.S. because they were doing what was right for them.

Evidence of God’s existence is everywhere. People who say they don’t believe in Him are lying to themselves because they want to live in a way that is contrary to what God has declared is right. It’s the same as knowing that smoking will kill you and doing it anyway. It’s the same as driving around without wearing a seatbelt. It’s the same as not going to work when you know your boss will be angry.

But it is your choice. Absolutely. But Newton was right in more ways than one. Every action has an equal and opposite reaction. You push something, and it will push back at you. Every choice you make has consequences. And you might not experience those consequences until you’re a grandmother or a grandfather. But they will come.

You can lie to yourself all you want, but it doesn’t change what’s true.