Slander: someone telling one or more persons an untruth about another person, to the detriment of the reputation of the person spoken about.
Someone makes a statement about Kemi being proud, and though you have had no interaction with Kemi, you take it to heart and form an opinion of Kemi from what a 3rd party has to say about her. You would be the fool to do that. You are told that Kemi is a proud, stuck-up person. But think about it: a shy person, for example (or one prone to mood swings), can be easily misinterpreted as being proud or a snub, depending on the blinders that the others have on. Yet, many people immediately form an opinion of others from what they hear a flawed 3rd party say about them.
While this article is not religious in nature, I need to say that for Christians, slander is what the 9th commandment addresses: “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbour”, yet it is one of the most widespread sins in religious circles and in society as a whole. For one, people enjoy gossip, and gossip is the vehicle of slander. People are busy-bodies, and no busy-body escapes slandering others. The age of social media makes it even easier to slander people. As a Christian, the Law is dead to me and of no effect, but God’s moral laws do not change. If slander was wrong under the Law of Moses, it remains wrong now that the Law has been done away with. What is moral stays moral, and what is immoral stays immoral.
Between Sunday afternoon and this morning, I have spent time listening to two different individuals share their stories of pain from enduring slanderous statements about themselves being spread around by other people. Of course, they are both hurting badly. There is a lot of pent-up anger involved too. In one case, the slandered person wanted to go confront the slanderer. I am not quite sure that the move would be an effective one. From experience, things only get messy when you confront a slanderer. Here is what I recommend, though I am by no means law on this matter:
Ignore the Slanderer
Honestly. When I was younger, I would have recommended that you go tackle and confront the person. With the benefit of hindsight, I am generally convinced that it is a not-so effective move. More noise will be made. More attention raised. More people who are ignorant of the facts are drawn into the issue. The slander is fed and grows. Perhaps you feel good from the confrontation – which I doubt for most people. Perhaps not. But usually, slanderers dig in and yell back at you. You see, their reputation is on the line and most will fight tooth and nail to insist that they are right.
People will believe what they will
I learnt this the hard way. When you are slandered, it does not matter what you say in your defence, people will believe what they will. If someone believes that you are a liar, all the explanations in the world will not change their position. As I grow older, I just don’t bother with explanations any more. Say what you feel obliged to say, but be under no illusions that it makes any difference. Check up on the history of mankind to see how real this is.
A Slander Storm is a good time to know your friends
Oh yes; you can put the whole saga to good effect. As a rule, your real friends who know you will not believe or spread the slander. A true friend might also ask you about the matter, but will take your reply to heart. But you might find those who will quietly withdraw from you and keep their distance from that time. Or those who will join the bandwagon with the stories and help to spread it. There, you know who not to call a friend from that point. Yes; the discovery that people you call your friends are not really dependable hurts, but knowledge is power. Now you know who to depend on and who to relate with cautiously.
How can he/she say such a thing?
That is a very common question that people ask about slanderers. “How can she claim that I dated her?” “How can he be lying that I slept with him?” A lot of Hows are thrown out there. I am shocked that people still ask these sort of questions. It has to do with being naive. It is naive to think that humans are by default good. Our propensity for evil is huge, inborn and grows even bigger as we age. A slanderer is only showing his or her true colours when they slander. It has nothing to do with you. If you were not available to be smeared, they would find someone else to throw mud on. They do it because they are.
Yes; you will hurt. But…
Being the object of slander hurts. It hurts badly, but you can make the best of the situation. Unless you have a civil/legal channel through which to stop the slanderer, you have to let the anger go. Giving in to the pain and the anger you feel will only worsen the situation. If civil/legal channels are open, by all means utilise them. If not, hold your peace, walk away and do not let yourself be distracted by attention-seeking, idle minds.
What About You?
The older I grow, the more I know not to believe everything I hear or read about people. My approach is to interact with a person and get to know them by myself. Human nature is too flawed and coloured for me to base my opinion about one person on what another person has to say about them. A simple misunderstanding between two people can result in a twisted and untrue opinion being developed by one party. I recommend to everyone that you try to live by this code too: develop an opinion about a person from meeting with and/or interacting with them, not from what others have to say about them. I would rather get burnt finding out for myself than starting out with them from someone else’s point of view.
When speaking of others, I would rather state facts than opinions. “When I greeted him last night, he did not return my greeting” is fact. “Don’t mind that boy. He is a proud idiot who thinks that he is better than others” is an opinion that may be true or not. There might have been other reasons beside pride responsible for his not returning my greeting. I try not to judge motives, though I do not always succeed. But I am convinced that is what we should all aim for.
Don’t swallow everything you hear or read about people. Don’t share and circulate it either. And please do not relate to a person based on a sentiment that has been expressed by someone else. You just never know until you find out for yourself.