Smear campaigns are an unfortunate attempt to ruin a person’s reputation. Such campaigns are triggered when people decide to fight dirty. Spreading half-truths and lies about a person is an offence that can be brought to the court’s attention. A plaintiff must show the false communication and prove that fault amounts to at least negligence to be able to garner some sort of retribution from the opposing party for the damage done. Such lawsuits are usually reserved to clear up the good name of a business. Slandering a person because of his or her political stance or personal beliefs is a different matter entirely.
Abraham Lincoln was the 16th president of the United States from 1861 to 1865. He led the nation through the American Civil War, the country’s greatest moral, constitutional, and political crisis and had to deal with a fair amount of slander and attack of his person culminating in his assassination in April 15, 1865. Lincoln said about reputation: “Character is like a tree and reputation like a shadow. The shadow is what we think of it; the tree is the real thing.”
When people disrespect us and say all kinds of nasty things into our face, we are tempted to sink to the same level and disrespect them in return. However, that is not the way of the Kingdom of Heaven. Even though they disrespect us, we are not going to humiliate them to gain some sort of satisfaction in “payback time.” It is to our gain to maintain our integrity and take pride in what we do no matter what other people say about us.
A friend of mine has been subjected to bad press because of his beliefs. One of the things that we discussed is his feelings about the opposing party who continue to talk negatively about him. He said: “The other day I was asking myself: ‘Do I hate them?’ and the Lord asked me some simple questions in return to find out if I did. The questions were: ‘Do you wish them harm? Do you want to see them suffer for what they’ve done? Would you be happy if something awful happened to them? If the answer is “no” then you don’t hate them.’”
In His Sermon on the Mount Jesus calls the victims of character assassination “Blessed”. He goes on to say that believers who are slandered because of their beliefs are in good company. Prophets from long ago were subjected to the same treatment. We are called blessed because our character cannot be killed with bad reputation. In fact the opposite is known to be true; through such challenges our character is built. Thomas Paine once said: “Reputation is what men and women think of us; character is what God and angels know of us” – and I believe he is right. Let us not lose sight of whose opinion counts most. It is the Lord who knows our heart and it is the Lord who sees us through.