CHARACTER ASSASSINATION: How To Respond When Someone Tries To Ruin Your Reputation

5 Then, the fifth time, Sanballat sent his assistant to me with the same message, and in his hand was an unsealed letter 6 in which was written: ‘It is reported among the nations – and Geshem says it is true – that you and the Jews are plotting to revolt, and therefore you are building the wall. Moreover, according to these reports you are about to become their king 7 and have even appointed prophets to make this proclamation about you in Jerusalem: “There is a king in Judah!” Now this report will get back to the king; so come, let us meet together.’

8 I sent him this reply: ‘Nothing like what you are saying is happening; you are just making it up out of your head.’ 9 They were all trying to frighten us, thinking, ‘Their hands will get too weak for the work, and it will not be completed.’

But I prayed, ‘Now strengthen my hands.’ Nehemiah 6:5-9

Most of us have had the unpleasant experience of facing damaging but untrue rumours spread about us by someone who very obviously wants to ruin our reputation. It’s probably one of the most painful experiences in life, especially if it’s being done by someone we thought was a friend.

For Nehemiah that person was Sanballat. Today these kinds of rumours are often spread on social media or on WhatsApp messages or whispered over coffee. In Nehemiah’s day, you spread rumours by including them in an unsealed letter, knowing that the messenger would read it and spread the lies. This is what Sanballat did to Nehemiah and the accusation couldn’t have been more serious, it endangered not just Nehemiah’s reputation but his life.

Sanballat spread the rumour that Nehemiah was planning an armed rebellion against the Persian King. Once that kind of rumour got to the Persian King it could end with Nehemiah facing torture and agonizing death as a traitor. For us, it’s usually our reputation that is at stake rather than our lives but it can still be incredibly painful and potentially damaging.

So how did Nehemiah react and what can we learn from his response? I think there are at least three ways we can follow Nehemiah’s example,

PUT THE RECORD STRAIGHT SOON AS POSSIBLE …. Nehemiah publicly put the record straight, He confronted Sanballat and his smear campaign head-on with the truth ‘Nothing like what you are saying is happening; you are just making it up out of your head.’

 I know I have been tempted to just ignore the situation when people have been spreading rumors about me, impugning my motives, and questioning my integrity. I now try and nip it in the bud as soon as possible, like Nehemiah by trying to find who started the smear campaign and challenging their lies with the truth. I’ve learned the longer I let it go the more it spreads and that some people will interpret silence as an admission of guilt.

PUT YOURSELF IN GOD’S HANDS …. Nehemiah realized that the whole situation with Sanballat and his attack on his character and reputation was bigger than he could handle on his own. We see Nehemiah responding the same way we see him responding to every challenge he faced, he prayed, entrusted himself to God, and asked for God’s strength. “But I prayed, ‘Now strengthen my hands.

CONTINUE TO LIVE WITH INTEGRITY …. The Apostle Paul was followed around by a whole group of opponents who constantly questioned his motives, actions, and integrity in the churches he founded. Paul was able to appeal to people who knew him to support and vindicate him because he had built a reputation for integrity. He was able to say to the new believers in Thessalonica  You are witnesses, and so is God, of how holy, righteous and blameless we were among you who believed” 1 Thess 2:10

The people in the church at Thessalonica knew that the accusations and rumours being spread about Paul were false, they could be his witnesses because he had lived among them with integrity.

Ultimately the best defense against attacks on our integrity is to live our lives so we build a reputation for integrity among those who know us best.

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