We’ve all been there. Maybe you walk up to a group and the conversation comes to a halt, and you can’t help but wonder if you were the topic. Maybe a friend accidentally tweeted a complaint about you that was supposed to be a private text to another! (This really happened to a friend of mine!) Or maybe it was more subtle, and you learned through a mutual friend that your name had come up in conversation more than once, and it wasn’t flattering.
It hurts. It seems unfair. You wonder who else they have had these conversations with. You wish you had been there to defend yourself. But the truth is that you can’t always be there, and you won’t always find out. I guarantee that there are more people talking about you then you realize, and it can be hurtful.
It makes me feel uncomfortable to think about people spreading ill conceived ideas of me to any willing listener. I want their audience to know me for me. I hate to be misunderstood. And then I realize why it’s really bothering me.
It’s all true.
Whatever you have heard about me…. it’s probably true. Have you heard that I am selfish? I am. Have you heard that I am thoughtless? Guilty. Have you heard that I am lazy? Bingo. I can be and have been all of these things at different parts of my life, and I am not talking about my days before Christ. I am talking about this morning. Why am I so afraid that people will think badly of me? And more importantly, why do I think it’s inaccurate if they do? Maybe I should be more concerned when people think well of me, because that is the real inaccuracy! There is no goodness in me, apart from Christ. And yet in Him is all the righteousness I need. We can spend so much energy wanting to make sure no one misunderstands us.
But was that the example Jesus left? Jesus was constantly misunderstood. Non-stop. Even by those that knew Him best on the Earth.
Can you imagine if He addressed every single person that spoke ill of Him? And He could, because He, unlike me, was sinless. Yet He just kept obeying His Father and loving people. Sure He spoke the truth and called people out, but his typical reaction was just to forgive.
So that is my choice today too.
Relinquishing control of people’s opinions is completely freeing. I will take seriously the verse in Exodus 14:14 that says He will fight for me, and let it be.
But before I let it go entirely, there is one thing I definitely want to do.
Whenever a situation rubs me the wrong way, I strive to look inward. This pain that I am feeling, have I inflicted this on someone else? Is this act that I find so wholly offensive, one of which I am guilty? More often than not, the Lord allows pain into my life so that I can take a look in the mirror and evaluate. Do I talk negatively about people? Even if it’s true, even if I am “venting”? Am I using my hurt feelings as an excuse to talk poorly of someone else? What is the result? There are no victim-less venting sessions. Does this mean we are supposed to bottle things up and never discuss our pain with another? No, of course not. But we need to be wise with whom we share and what we share.
Here are some ideas to think about:
1. If you need counsel on a situation, you can leave out the name of the person about whom you are talking.
2. Talk to a trusted friend who is totally unconnected, someone who doesn’t know and will never know that person.
3. Or on the contrary, talk to someone who does know the situation can actually help you remedy the issue.
4. Be fair. Just trashing the character of someone else to whomever will listen is not profitable for anyone, even if it makes you feel better in the moment. Admit your part in a conflict. Is there any truth to what was said?
5. And most importantly, before you do any of those things, take it to the Lord in prayer. Like really. For a while. Work it out with the Lord. You can say whatever you want to Him! He actually knows the truth about all parties involved!
And if you are the one listening to someone “vent” about another, take it with a grain of salt. Every time. For the same way that you judge, you will be judged.
Ultimately, I pray that we would take our offenses to the Lord first, let Him care for our hearts and grant us true perspective so that in our weakness He would show Himself strong. Can you imagine if we did that in the church? All of us? Every single person?
Let us take some time with Jesus before reacting in the flesh. What a beautiful picture of unity we could display so that the world would know we are Christians by our love for one another. And remember, His mercies are new every morning….and it’s morning somewhere! Amen.