Discernment,  Musings

Lessons Learned: Assumptions and Accusations

As noted in the first post in this series, I’m taking time to reflect on some of the experiences God has graciously given me and the extremely practical lessons I’ve learned from them. This isn’t meant to serve as a personal journal, but rather as a source of encouragement and application for the reader.

Pointing the Finger

In this post, I’d like to discuss the nature and implications of allegations both written and verbal. We are an accusatory bunch, aren’t we? Sometimes I think we tend toward this action because we like to do whatever is necessary to shine the spotlight on someone else so our own behavior might remain unnoticed. To be sure, there are times when it is right and necessary to point the proverbial finger, but I tend to think those times might actually be far less frequent than we realize.

Accusing someone of wrongdoing is serious. We must be certain of the truth and basis of our allegations before we verbalize them. And one lesson I’ve learned is that speculation is an extremely poor foundation for accusations.

Speculation ≠ Truth

Several points in my life stand out as teaching me this truth. The first is my informal discernment blogger training. Those who followed this blog in its early years know it had a very different tone and purpose than it does now. It was, without question, a “discernment blog.” Still, regardless of how my thinking toward such endeavors may have changed, I cannot deny that I learned much during those years. Of utmost priority was this: never base your accusations against someone on pure speculation. Provide sources for everything. Never assume. Mind your words. Be certain.

You see, blogs are written. And the Internet, well, nothing ever really disappears once it’s online. Events in recent years and months demonstrate that those who are the subject of such accusatory blog posts are not afraid to take legal action against the blogger(s). As such, we must be careful about what we say and write, in all courses of life. This is not “fear of man” or simply saving our own skin, this is wisdom. Why allow the name of Christ to be publicly dragged through the mud just so we can write a couple of zinging one-liners and see our post go viral? It’s not worth it.

Wrong Assumptions Hurt

This lesson regarding speculative accusations made a deeper impact, however, when I became the target of such allegations. There was a time when I was accused of writing things I did not write, simply because the actual author used a similar writing style, but did not use his/her own name on the articles in question. Also leveled against me have been claims of compromise and capitulation, simply because I remained silent on a public issue.

In both of these instances, I, by God’s grace and power, remained silent and did not respond publicly to the wrong allegations. Still, it hurt. It was difficult to know that people—many people—were assuming and believing wrong things about me. Knowing that emails were being written to other ministries and comments were being posted online falsely accusing me of action I did not commit, or of motivation that was not in my mind or heart was troublesome and the cause of restless nights and much stress. As much as I wanted to boldly declare my true stance, I knew that those accusing me would neither listen to nor believe me. So I instead invoked the wisdom of Proverbs, knowing my many words of self-defense could very well make matters worse:

When words are many, transgression is not lacking,
but whoever restrains his lips is prudent.

Proverbs 10:19

Whoever keeps his mouth and his tongue
keeps himself out of trouble.

Proverbs 21:23

Christians Are to Reflect Christ

In a twist of providential irony, the Bible is not silent on the matter and wisdom of keeping silent! As Christians, we are to be above reproach. If we are going to publicly or privately accuse someone of wrongdoing or nefarious thinking, we must have something other than our “gut instinct” upon which to base our hypothesis. Otherwise, we have in fact besmirched the name of Christ as well as our own integrity. We must remember that silence does not always mean agreement. We must remember to reflect Christ in all we do, and His judgment or condemnation of others (e.g., the Pharisees) was never based in conjecture.

Of course, in Christ’s example, we cannot forget too that He knew people’s hearts (cf. John 2:24-25) and in His omniscience knew the facts about people’s private lives and thoughts. We are not omniscient. Not even close. We must not forget this when we are tempted to publicly accuse on the basis of assumption.

Think and Pray, then Speak

This lesson extends and applies to all areas of life: within our families, among our friends and churches, at work, at school, and especially online, where we often do not truly know the people against whom we speak. It is not wrong or bad to offer people the benefit of the doubt. If someone were wrongly assuming something about us, would we not prefer that they first ask us to clarify our thoughts or actions prior to airing it before the public? This changes, of course, if we are confronting public false teaching, but if we are merely assuming one’s position based on silence and/or associations, we err.

In all situations that may result in accusatory words, we must first think and pray before we speak or write. Just as we are an accusatory bunch, so too are we a reactionary people. But we Christians have been transformed. We have the source of all wisdom as our King and He desires that we bring all things to Him before laying them bare before others.

Learning this lesson in the ways I have has allowed me to apply this on numerous occasions in various contexts. God is good to teach us such practical life lessons, and we do well to learn from and apply them.

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 

1 Corinthians 13:4-7
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