Today’s article marks the end of the fifth consecutive year of Perspectives articles! While I’m occasionally tempted to cease and desist, I receive enough feedback from those who appreciate these weekly blurbs to persuade me not to stop. So, at least for now, I plan to continue.
In a previous season of my life I had a few most unpleasant experiences, putting it mildly. The particular incidents of which I’m thinking today are those affecting any person, not just me, who is the subject of a lawsuit or other biased, judgmental, defamatory communication.
While I could list a number of egregious results, the one of greatest concern is the harm done to personal and professional reputation by allegations and accusations that are totally unfounded. If you’ve ever been the target of a lawsuit or other spurious charges and allegations, you know exactly what I’m talking about. If you have not had that experience, count your blessings!
The most troublesome part of dealing with untrue or only partially true statements, written or spoken, is how to set the record straight. How can the injured (see the Fifth Commandment) person possibly tell the rest of the story, including the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, to everyone who has heard the malicious allegations?
The problem is simple but complex: The person who speaks or writes untruthfully about you communicates that hurtful message to unknown numbers of people. Some of them you know; others you don’t know. Some of them know you; others have never heard of you.
Unless these people also hear or read the actual truth about you, whether from you or others who know the person you really are, they may form a false impression as a result of what they have unilaterally heard or read. Our sinful human nature all too often delights in hearing bad things about people, even good people, including people we know and love.
The meaning of the Eighth Commandment: “We should fear and love God so that we do not tell lies about our neighbor, betray him, slander him, or hurt his reputation, but defend him, speak well of him and explain everything in the kindest way.” (Luther’s Small Catechism)
Remember those words, dear friends. And when you hear or read something derogatory about any person, check it out before believing it’s accurate and true. A person’s reputation is a blessed gift, hard earned, and way too important to discard on the testimony of anyone who is not interested in defending and speaking well of that person. My childhood Catechism used to say it this way: “We should fear and love God that we may … put the best construction on everything.”
God bless you abundantly!