Lord my God, I take refuge in you;
save and deliver me from all who pursue me,
or they will tear me apart like a lion
and rip me to pieces with no one to rescue me.
David Psalm 7: 1-2 (NIV)
My one year at boarding school was at times like living in a lion’s den. I was thirteen and my unabashed and maybe naive stand as a Christian meant that I stuck out. More than once I was in the middle of a group of sceptical girls firing questions at me. It was scary but exhilarating at the same time. What smarted was finding out at the end of the year that I had been the target of a false rumour. It was, I hope, based on a simple misunderstanding (the mishearing of a single letter, a “t” instead of a “p” in ship) but still cut deeply. There have been other times like this and I have witnessed close friends and family enduring similar experiences.
Have you ever been falsely accused? Perhaps you were blamed for the actions or mistakes of others. Maybe you were the target of prejudice or unfounded rumours. Perhaps someone maliciously spread lies about you. When this happens, our reputation and relationships can be shattered but what makes it particularly distressing is that it’s undeserved and unfair. Often we want to retaliate or to vehemently insist on our innocence. Maybe we become angry – or maybe we are crushed and even begin to doubt ourselves. We lose our trust in other people. How can our work mate or friend or trusted family member say that? Why didn’t they talk to us first before believing such lies? We may feel in a bind when speaking up for ourselves results in deepening the conflict. We may want nothing more to do with the accusers if they are going to be like that.
Three thousand years ago King David of Israel faced just this situation. He was falsely accused by an enemy and others believed the accusations. David’s response was not to directly attack his antagonist but to take his case to God because he knows God is just and will, in His own time and way, deal with the accusations and the accuser. Even more than this David trusts God to act on his behalf. A thousand years later, Jesus also faced false accusations. He didn’t retaliate because He knew who he was and was confident in His relationship with the Father. He responded with love and forgiveness.
So what can I do when falsely accused?
- I can pour out my feelings to God without reserve – the anger, the hurt, the distress. He already knows our deepest thoughts better than we do ourselves. We can’t shock him. He listens and He cares. He is our defender and advocate.
- I can acknowledge my flaws and weaknesses to God. I may have done something to contribute to the situation. Even if I haven’t, my perceptions aren’t always right, my responses may be less than ideal or I may be failing to trust God’s love and wisdom in the situation.
- I can pray – both for myself and for my antagonist.
- If at all possible, I can attempt to reconcile with my accuser. Contemporary wisdom says if someone hurts you cut them off but Jesus says if your brother or sister offends you then go and talk to her. Of course, the other person may not be willing to talk or to listen but surely I should try. To be honest, I find this the hardest step because I hate confrontation. It’s scary. Yet I know I would prefer someone speak to me – rather than to everyone else but me – about perceived faults or offenses.
- Even if the other person won’t listen, I can love and forgive her because she is precious to God despite her flaws and failures (just as I am). I don’t think this means continually putting myself in an unsafe place but it does mean dealing with my resentment and anger. It also means continuing to act in the best interest of my accuser (love).
- I can trust and persevere. No matter how pear-shaped the situation becomes, I need to trust in God for the outcomes.
“Lord (God), you are my judge and my shield. I pray that you might plead my case. I ask for forgiveness for my failures. I pray for wisdom and a calm spirit in my responses. I pray that you will give me the resources to cope with the issues I deal with at the moment. Thank you for listening to me even though you know my faults and misconceptions. Thank you for caring. Thank you for being there for me when I haven’t always been there for you. Amen.”
Jeanette has practiced medicine, studied communication, history and theology and has taught theology. She is currently caring for her children, enjoying post-graduate studies in writing at Swinburne University and writing her Akrad fantasy fiction series. She is actively involved in a caring Christian community. You can find her at JennysThread.com , JeanetteOHagan.com and http://www.facebook.com/JeanetteOHaganAuthorAndSpeaker
This article was originally published in The Golden Pen October 2013