Damaging Another Person’s Reputation

17 06 2010

I know the answer to this question, but it irks me: “What makes one person want to damage another person’s reputation?” Of course, I know; it is the thing that is behind all of the dark things we do, but stop and think about it: Why do we want to do this? Why do we want to choose those words, to share that piece of information, for the purpose of making another person look bad?

Publicly, this is called “Slander” (you just put it out there).

Privately, this is called “Gossip” (behind the scenes, a secret slanderer).

From the time we put sentences together, we are cutting each other down. At first they are just simple accusations that may or may not be believable; but we become more skilled at it as we go; we become good at advertising another person’s faults so that others quite blindly buy in; with silver tongues we slay another person.

Who is innocent of this charge? Certainly not me! Haven’t I let just a little more information go than necessary at times? Haven’t I given a conversation a nudge in my favor, at another’s expense?

Behind slander/gossip, anger simmers; behind anger there could be many things: bitterness, fear, frustration, hurt, resentment, embarrassment, shame; any number of  poisons that motivate us to take a shot at someone else. We perceive this battle to be good over evil, where we are “good” and the other person isn’t. We want right to win over wrong; and obviously we are right. Even if we aren’t right, we don’t want to lose face; so we draw mustaches on others.

We step back, and in some way we feel good; we feel a little vindicated when someone agrees with our assessment of another; so we try it again.

Proverbs 10:18 in the Bible says, “…slandering others makes you a fool.” I wish the writer had said more; I have to add the “because.” Slandering others makes you and I a fool because

  • How we measure others is how we will be measured. As one man used to say, “when you point one finger at others, there are three pointing back at you.”
  • The person we slander is a child of God and we are as flawed as he/she
  • Slander proves our depravity one more time and we are called to live a nobler life.
  • It hurts; and we are to be about healing, not wounding
  • If for nothing else, the person who slanders is a slanderer. In the moment it may seem like people want to listen, but ultimately it erodes his own reputation; ah, he becomes a fool.

On Sunday Mike talked about “words” and whether we ought to be asking ourselves more often, “are the words I am about to use necessary.” This is important in so many areas of our life, and particularly when it comes to building up or tearing down other people. Before those words escape: really? Really, do you want to go there?

Psalm 19:14:

May the words of my mouth
and the meditation of my heart
be pleasing to you,
O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.

— Teresa Klassen

Afterword:

I am reading a book called “The Dream” by Gurbaksh Chahal. It is the completely entertaining, true story of a boy (originally from India) who left school to pursue his entrepreneurial dreams; by the time he was 18 he was a millionaire (many times over). It is an interesting, inspiring, humorous, sobering look at the life of someone who was an is extremely ambitious. I am thoroughly enjoying it; it is a story of lessons learned.

One thing that is woven throughout his story is conflict. All along the way “G” (as he is known) meets people who are very helpful and loyal to him; and along the way he runs into other people who just want to slander him and take him down.

When encountering the latter, G reflects on the importance of moving past and moving on, “And finally — a lesson that bears repeating: Learn to move on when it’s time to move on. Bite the bullet. Let go. Start fresh. Don’t look back. It’s not as easy as it sounds, but make the effort — it’s worth it” (179).

Sometimes, when we are slandered, we can just shut down. I found it inspiring to see this author’s resilience.

In case you interested, this is the book:

The Dream: How I Learned the Risks and Rewards of Entrepreneurship and Made Millions

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