When People Speak Ill of You

That some will speak ill of you is one of life’s contants. It can come in several forms, but every human being will experience it.

I’ve found many of those who consistently aim negativity toward others to be perennial offenders. This is to say, the same people cultivate much of the world’s negativity. Every now and then someone who doesn’t usually do so will say something unkind about someone–but not usually. Chronically negative people are–well–chronically negative. They are the like the tankers, cars, and refineries that produce most of the world’s smog. Inhaling their second-hand smog can kill your spirit.

Such people are not being “prophetic,” or “challenging a Brother.” They are often little more than insecure, immature, arrogant, jealous, or lacking self-control. In my experience with those who speak ill of others there is also generally an adverse correlation between the person’s negativity and their knowledge of the person/church being discussed. The more negative they are, the less they seem to actually know the situation/person. I’m thankful for Jesus’ words that remind me of how important it is that I guard my mouth–that it’s out of the heart the mouth speaks–I will give an account for every careless word I utter. Those precious words hold me accountable.

Whether it is me or someone else, those who speak ill of others can inflict substantial pain. Thus, knowing how to deal with those who speak ill of you really matters. How you deal with those in your congregation is a subject for another post–though some of these principles may apply. These suggestions are directed mostly at critics “out there.”

Some who give advice on this subject suggest starting with analyzing what kernel of truth may be in what’s being said. Reserve that for people with the credibility to speak into your life–and listen to them beyond the kernel. There will always be people who don’t know you or your church well who feel free to share negative commentary fertilized by their ignorance. Occasionally, there is a kernel in there. The question is, is it worth digging through layers of manure to find it? I’ve found it more helpful to spend concerted time listening to those who I know really care–and actively seek out such relationships. Their truly prophetic words of challenge are gold–not kernels.

Occasionally, something out there will be damaging enough I feel I need to confront the source. Otherwise, I try not to worry about the others and would encourage you to do the same. If you do, you’ll wear yourself out with worry and begin the disastrous turn of shifting your ministry in hopes of pleasing “them.”

I heard Rick Warren offer these three ways to deal with critics. I’m not sure they can be improved upon. Rather than spend your time worrying about or dealing with critics:

  • Out love them.
  • Out last them.
  • Out fruit them.

That’s got more than a kernel of truth in it.

How do you deal with those who speak ill of you?

NOTE: This post adapted from a previous post.

Dr. Tim Spivey is Lead Planter of New Vintage Church in San Diego, California. He is the author of numerous articles and one book, "Jesus: The Powerful Servant." A sought after speaker for events, Tim also serves as Adjunct Professor of Religion at Pepperdine University. Tim serves as a church consultant, and his writings are featured on ChurchLeaders.com, Church Executive magazine, Faith Village, Sermon Central, and Giving Rocket.

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