It’s always painful when someone says something untrue about you.
If you’re anything like me, in these moments, you want justice. For your own name. For the sake of truth being known. For that person to not get away with what they’ve done. For others’ view of you to not be warped by a lie.
To have someone you know share falsehoods about you with someone else you know can be debilitating. In some ways, it can destroy you. It certainly has the ability to destroy relationships. None of us want that.
But what is the right thing to do? This is the piece I wrestle with. Because, as Christians, we’re in the truth business. But does that mean you should go on a quest to clear your name, regardless of the cost?
Here are four ways to respond when your name has been slandered.
1. Don’t rally troops for your camp
Oh, let me tell you how hard this one is for me. All I want to do is clear my name and rally people to my side. Because, of course, the person who has slandered me is the enemy, right?
Sometimes the person who has shared falsehoods about you is a fellow believer and surely they are not the enemy. They are saved by grace in the same way you are.
That doesn’t make them right. But it certainly means they are not the enemy.
I was recently reading a really good book on the story of King Saul and David. If you are familiar with the story, then you know Saul most definitely slandered the reputation of David. At a certain point, David’s life was on the line and he had no other choice than to flee.
What captured my attention about this book was what David didn’t do. He didn’t take anyone with him when he fled. He didn’t rally the troops against Saul and destroy his name in return. He just left. And he left alone.
When you’re slandered, you must resist the desire to build your side. Because it’s not about sides.
2. Speak truth to those who are seeking truth
The tension then comes when you have to wrestle with how to respond to those who ask you about these slander and falsehoods.
Now, we know some people just come to us for the juicy gossip. We most definitely shouldn’t fan the flames of that fire. Scripture is very clear about our role in gossip. We need to stay as far away as possible.
But then there are those people who come to you genuinely seeking truth. They don’t know what to believe, and they genuinely desire to know the truth–lest they go on believing falsehoods.
I sought counsel in this area, because I had trouble discerning when I should speak up and when I shouldn’t. This very dear and wise friend of mine said, “Speak the truth to those God puts in front of you.”
I have clung to this counsel and was actually very surprised by how few people God put in front of me. I didn’t go seeking them to advance the topic for my gain. Instead, I waited and trusted that God would bring those who needed to know the truth regarding the situation to me.
When people do come and seem to be truth seekers rather than gossipers, you can speak plain truth. But this is not an opportunity to say your truth at the expense of those speaking slander against you. It means you share the truth of the situations while refraining from accusations and slander of the others involved.
This is a very hard line to walk, but it’s one we must be aware of. Your opportunity to share truth isn’t an opportunity to speak ill about someone who wronged you. We pray during these conversations and seek for the Spirit to move us to speak when we should and hold our tongues when we shouldn’t.
The worst situation you could find yourself in is returning slander for slander out of your hurt. Speak truth. Nothing more, nothing less.
3. Learn to be okay with some people misunderstanding you
When someone slanders you it can feel as if you have lost everything. It seems as if you have no control over the way others perceive you, because of someone else spreading falsehoods. This can drive us to a crazy place and lead us down an unstable road.
What do we do about those whose perception has been changed? They have believed the falsehood and acted accordingly. Our fear of disapproval lights up like a Christmas tree in these moments. It begins to consume us and wage war within us. We just want them to know the truth about who we are. We want to go to them pleading our case.
Sometimes, we have to learn to be okay with certain people misunderstanding us.
“The fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is safe.”
We should have a far greater fear of acting unrighteously rather than fearing our name be tainted forever in the eyes of man. And we have one of the greatest examples to guide us in this area. Jesus.
He was slandered by religious leaders, friends, and family. Yet he never took up the campaign of clearing his name. He was on a far greater mission. To step outside of that mission for the sake of everyone understanding him in that moment would have been far too costly.
From the day he was born even until now, Jesus has fulfilled exactly what he said he would do. And yet certain people still misunderstand him and misjudge his heart.
As believers, our role isn’t to take up the mission of setting straight misperceptions about us. We’re on a far greater mission! And what a shame it would be for that mission to be thwarted out of our fear of disapproval.
We have to learn to be okay with people misunderstanding us. I don’t think that it’s something that will going away anytime soon. It didn’t for Jesus.
4. Trust God to take care of your reputation
Alongside the advice my friend gave me earlier was, “Trust God to take care of the rest.” Words that I know but needed to hear again and again.
Sometimes, we can get so caught up in the way slander has changed our lives that we set down a war path to fix it. In the midst of our war path we find ourselves becoming a person we never wanted to be. We’re constantly on the defensive to make the wrong right.
In our efforts to correct, we become one of those people that just can’t let something go. We always want to bring up that one time our name was slandered. Anytime it comes up in conversation, our anger rises and we lock on like a wild dog.
That’s not the kind of person I want to be.
We can’t become so consumed by a campaign to save our reputation, because it’s a path of destruction and bitterness.
“Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.’”
Let God take care of your reputation. He will do it far better than you could anyways.
God will care for you in the ways that you need. Most of the time he is working in ways you may never see. You just have to trust that he is caring for you and part of that is caring for your reputation in the ways that are necessary.
When someone slanders you trust that God will mend your broken heart and the ripple effects that you could never undo.