Don’t Believe Everything You Read or Hear

Several years ago, Michael Hyatt (former CEO of Thomas Nelson) responded to a rumor on his blog. In the post, Michael wrote,

“According to the most recent rumor—which I’ve now heard twice—we [Thomas Nelson] are planning a layoff for June 19th … We are scheduled to close the transaction on June 12th, so, supposedly, this will happen the week following. I want to assure you that this is indeed a baseless rumor. There is absolutely no truth to it … If you hear this rumor, I would be grateful if you would help me short-circuit it. You can tell ’em it’s not true, and you heard it directly from me.”

I recall when this rumor was circulating and was saddened (and surprised) at how many Christians believed it without going straight to Michael to see if it was true or false.

Another example that’s much more national.

Late last year, I came across a website alleging a sex scandal involving President Obama. The “story” first came out in 2008 just before the primary. It was shown to be baseless and quickly faded away. Then it resurfaced again in 2010. (The original story was removed by the source after staying online for 4 years.)

Another site purports alleged “proof” that Obama is a Muslim terrorist in disguise. Again, a baseless rumor.

And another alleges that Obama is gay, has sexually harassed males, and abuses drugs. Again, baseless.

Note: I don’t agree with many of Obama’s policies. But these accusations are scurrilous, vicious, outrageous, and just plain slimy. There’s no good evidence to support any of them. That’s why they’ve never gained traction. However, because they are written intelligently, they persuade the uninformed (a characteristic of effective libel).

Earlier this year, Rick Warren was personally attacked, judged, and lied about by professing Christians.

We live in a very dark world where rumors abound. Gossip abounds. Slander abounds. Even in the “Christian” community (so-called), tragically.

Slander is a serious sin, and according to Paul, slanderers will be barred from the kingdom of God (1 Corinthians 6:9-10).

I have good friends and people whom I respect who have been lied about on the Internet, and I’ve quickly come to their defense wherever I’ve seen such lies (as I did with Rick Warren).

Point: Anyone who has profound influence is going to have detractors and enemies. And some of them will go on a personal “smear” attack using distortions and fabrications.

Just look at the things Jesus and Paul were accused of during their day.

History tells us the same thing about John Wesley, Watchman Nee, T. Austin-Sparks, and just about every other servant of God who was turning the sod on important issues during their time.

Many years ago I learned a valuable lesson from a BIG mistake I made. It was a first-class screw up that still haunts me till this day.

I listened to slander about a fellow Christian and I believed it. Thankfully, I repented when I found out the truth, but I still feel remorse over it when it comes to mind.

Last year, I wrote a post about it. The post hit a chord with many people. I’m reposting it below so that those of you who are new subscribers can read it.

It’s a lesson I learned from failure that I’ll never forget.

Rule of thumb: If you read something negative about another person, especially a fellow Christian, take it with a grain of salt. Tilt toward not believing it. Just as you would want others to do if it were you being smeared (Matthew 7:12).

If you’re concerned, go to the person directly to hear their response. There are always two sides to any story (as least). And unfortunately, some people desire to defame others, usually out of jealousy, so dishonesty abounds.

Here’s the post where I shared how I learned this lesson from a BIG mistake I made many years ago: Hearing One Side of a Story

See also:

5 Reasons to Unfriend Someone on Facebook & Unfollow Them on Twitter

Things Aren’t Always What They Seem

Forgotten Words of Jesus

Warning: The World is Watching How We Christians Treat One Another

Have You Heard? The Plague of Gossip and Slander in the Body of Christ

Anyway 

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Comments

  1. says

    This is a great post. With social media and instant news, it’s easy to read something and believe it, without having thought of the other side. Thank you.

  2. says

    Great post. In today’s instant media world the problem goes beyond attacking others based solely on what we read.

    How often do we form opinions on major issues or events when all we know of them is what we have read in a single article or post?

    If all we know is superficial and second-hand then what we say certainly qualifies as gossip!

  3. says

    Frank, thanks for the article. It is a good reminder to me to focus on hearing the person and getting the courage to talk to them directly when I am able to instead of just accepting what others are saying. LIke you said, often times the rumor is wrong and puts people in bad light. I hope that I can do better to represent Christ at work and in the world by sticking to the truth and not slandering. Thanks,

  4. says

    It was seismic for me to realize that ‘the satan’ has a lot more to do with the spirit of blame and accusation (literal meaning of the word) than it does with a personal name or character with horns and a pitchfork. The latter I don’t see anywhere but the former is all over the internet and cable TV.

  5. Jared Patel: Blog Manager says

    This is Jared, the Blog Manager. Frank doesn’t see comments on this blog unless I approve them. Please see the blog rules at http://frankviola.org/rules if your comment was deleted.

    You can email Frank directly at PTMIN@aol.com, but use a real email address not a fake one else he will not see them (I manage the email also). I have the ability to see the IP Addresses when comments are made so I know where they are coming from.

    Blessings,
    Jared

  6. says

    The post isn’t a complete study. There are linked articles in the post that go into more details. But Matthew 18 covers that issue you raise. First, go to the person in private, then take witnesses to talk to them in private and urge them to repent, and if they still don’t repent, make it public. We can’t ignore the fact that both Jesus had multiple false witnesses. The issue is the credibility of the witnesses and that Matthew 18, steps 1 and 2 are often ignored. That’s why we have courts and cross-examination. Be that as it may, if we hear something negative about another person, we should tilt toward not believing it, and if we are concerned, we should go straight to the individual being talked about. This is in accordance with Matthew 7:12, upon which hangs all the Law and the Prophets. I always want to find out if Matthew 18 was followed through first, and talking to both sides makes that clear usually.

  7. Antonio Navarro Jr says

    I loved your article and all the posts. One post mentions the golden rule, “do unto others as you would have others do unto you”. Combining that rule with first Corinthians 13 and 14:1, Ephesians1:1-7 and so on and so on because the Word of God is replete with His commands to those who Love Him, to love even our enemies. Even though I fall very short from being a good follower of our Lord Jesus Christ, and sin very often, I find it very hard to understand, (actually I don’t understand) how, at least in appearances, most of those who think of themselves as Christians, and really believe themselves to be Christians, live as though they have no idea of what it is Jesus says about our behavior and how we must behave if we love Him and that if we accept Him as our Lord and Savior, then we have to actually Love Him, which means we must, and I do mean MUST, obey His commands. LOVE GOD WITH ALL OUR MIND, ALL OUR HEART, ALL OUR SOUL AND ALL OUR MIGHT, LOVE OUR NEIGHBOR AS WE LOVE OURSELVES (we are in this sentence told that we are to love ourselves as God loves us, not in a selfish self centered way) AMD LOVE OUR ENEMIES. I can not, for the life of me, see where speaking badly of anyone, fits into these commands. We are also told to prey for our leaders and again, even though I personally do not like Obama’s leadership, I can not see where maligning him is a part of praying for him. Paul speaking for God, tells us to pray for our leaders even when his leaders were idol worshipers killing Christians and being the worst type of perverts. We are to pray for all our leaders no matter what they do or how they lead and what religion they follow or what they believe in because our Lord and savior, our God, tells us to, period, no matter what we feel or think or even know.I say this with all of my heart and with all of my being, love in Christ Jesus our Lord and Savior,

    Antonio Navarro Jr

  8. Will Scott says

    It’s not only the world that is watching how Christians treat each other. The slander, backbiting, false accusations, etc. that I’ve suffered from Christians over the last 40+ years has been horrendous.

    And when I’ve tried to clear things up, they’ve refused to talk to me. Every single one of them. (“Conscience doth make cowards of us all.”)

    I’m like your friend who said he doesn’t like Christians. They terrify me now. Who needs it?

  9. says

    Nice post Frank. The other day I was reading about John the Baptist and Jesus in Matthew 11. John got criticized for fasting and Jesus got criticized for eating and drinking with “sinners”. It seems either way you can get criticized or judged or lied about at times. I like that you said not to believe everything you hear.

  10. says

    Nice post Frank, we could all use reminders about this stuff pretty often. These types of things happen more and more as the internet grows, and so does the gullibility of the people as well. Usually when something like this happens to me (if I start to believe in the “one side”), I will just hold off on making any assumptions or repeating it as to not spread the rumor, and let the Lord do the rest. If there is any merit to it I am usually led down the path of further information gathering (rarely the case), if not my heart is set at ease by Him and the issue is dropped.

    I remember Watchman Nee talking about how often he was slandered in his autobiography Against the Tide, and knowing his character and works just goes to show often times it’s the people who are really doing the Lord’s work that are the biggest targets. When we are slandered we just have to remember that it is “our cross”, and to take it up and rejoice that we share in the Lord’s sufferings (as tough as that can be sometimes).

    Hope you are well brother, much love

  11. Ann says

    I just got done responding to a Christian on Youtube who insists that President Obama is the antichrist which is probably the ultimate in slander/gossip about anyone.

  12. says

    I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen a similar situation in our church. About 99% of the time going directly back to the alleged source clears things up. I remember once I was talking with a friend when they mentioned “so and so” and what he had done. They were giving me information they had received from a third party. I stopped him right there, called the guy on the phone he was talking about and asked him to clear it up. He did and that settle the matter very quickly!

  13. says

    I’m glad you wrote this, more people need to be reminded to not believe everything they read or hear right off the bat. But this goes for more than comments people make about other people. It goes for the things we hear from the mainstream media, filmmakers, authors and even college professors. (If I believed everything my professors tried to get across, I would be a man-hating communist!) heheh :) So yeah, my motto is always to take everything with a grain of salt. Thanks for the post!

  14. says

    There is that familiar saying: “It’s too good too be true.” I’ve also learned that things can be too bad to be true. It saddens me when people have so much hate for someone, like the president of the US, that they would spread any negative story that they didn’t check to see if it was true. We need discernment in the end times, and when people can’t judge stuff like what’s being spread around in the examples in this post, how will they identify anti-Christs and false doctrine?
    Jeff

  15. says

    Proverbs 18:13 puts it perfectly:

    “He who answers a matter before he hears it, it is folly and shame to him.”

    Since I get the impression that you are comparing the influence of Jesus and Paul to that of Obama, I would mention the Skip Gates fiasco in Massachusetts, which ended in the infamous “Beer Summit 2009″. Before Obama had the full facts, he said the police had acted stupidly.

    For what it’s worth.

    • says

      Yes, there are many examples. The post doesn’t comparison Obama with Jesus and Paul in terms of their influence, but in terms of willful lies spread about them.

        • Antonio Navarro Jr says

          Please forgive me if the way I put my question seems offensive. I just wonder because this happens so very, very, very often. Can you explain how it is that you actually thought that the article was equating Jesus and Paul to Obama? if you read all the posts you can see that no one else got that impression, that the impression we all got was what Frank clarifies. It is very interesting to me how it is that reading the same Word of God, for example, there are so many different views or understanding of what it is He sayis.

  16. Justin Carper says

    You mean everything on tv and the internet isn’t true? Great post! I’m glad I found your blog. Keep up the good work.

  17. says

    Amen.

    We Christians ought not fall prey to the games that others engage in.

    But we sometimes do. It certainly is one of the many things that should be repented of and avoided.

    Thanks.

  18. Paul says

    hello sir. it was a great post. i was reminded of a sermon i heard long time ago: hurting people hurt others… God bless you and use you as His instrument of change and enlightenment. We truly need Jesus!

  19. Victoria L says

    Thank you! This is my first time reading your blog. I was introduced to you today by Brant Hansen on Air1 radio. This helped with a recent incident in my life that turned it upside down. You have given me practical insight and relevant references that leave me astonished that I had to read this to ‘get it’. I plan to continue reading you whenever I can and introduce you to others who I hope can appreciate how you explained in a simple and pragmatic way what Christ has been trying to teach all along. Thank you again and God Bless.

  20. says

    Frank,

    Great post. Over the years, I have learned that my first response to issues / people probably needs to be nuanced. I don’t trust my gut response. Like fine wine gets better with age, giving a response sometimes means a better response / reaction will be given.
    Taking some time to do your own research on the topic / person is always a good policy. Thanks for your transparency.

  21. Franklin N. Ampah-Korsah says

    Very insightful piece Mr. Viola. “Do unto others as you would want others to do unto you”….is supposed to be the easiest of Jesus’ teachings, but it is the one at which we grossly err the most.
    Thanks for this brilliant post.

  22. KELLIE says

    Thank you Frank. I am sure this post has helped a lot of people including myself. I wish every member of our body of believers would read your post on this subject. To make matters worse, our pastor is caught up in it as well.

  23. Teague McKamey says

    “But hurt people hurt people if they haven’t tasted the cross.” This is so true yet so different from the way we think. Hurt people often think they are exempt from asking themselves hard questions about their own behavior. The rest of us often exempt them too because they’ve been hurt. How could any fault lie with the one who gets hurt, right? That’s the tangle we get into when we judge by the knowledge of good & evil (which caused the fall, don’t forget!) instead of letting the cross be the judge of all things, including ourselves when we are hurt.

  24. Laura says

    Thank you for sharing your views and insights into this vital area of our relationships and fellowship in the Body of Christ. I too have seen precious saints painted as ‘demons’ and evil painted as good. I feel we have a continual challenge to submit and be transformed by the powerful humility which is the love of God

  25. Matt says

    Great post Frank, I’ve been on both sides of slander, and gossip, and have had to repent as well, as confront. Neither made me feel good. As far as Obama is concerned, as an african american who grew up in the south, my perspective is different regarding the hate and vitriol that is being thrown at the president, enough said. Thanks for posting this.

  26. CatherineS says

    Some of the worst gossip and slander I’ve ever heard was told in the guise of prayer requests. Too often believers think that it’s OK if it’s wrapped in spiritual garb, but the harm done can be beyond measure — harm to one being gossiped about or slandered, the ones hearing it and even the ones speaking it.

  27. says

    Thanks for bringing this post to my attention Frank. I’m reminded of a recent time when I came across some accusations toward a brother and asked you how I could get in touch with him. After finding out it was all a bunch of hoopla, I felt bad for even entertaining the thought. Through that I learned that it really doesn’t take much, just a tiny seed of discord planted and it can grow into a seriously debilitating condition of divisiveness.

    I’m also reminded of the promise we have of persecution and suffering. It’s not something we seek out, it seeks us out when we make waves by loving others. I was talking with my friend just this morning about how regeneration is like being changed from a source of evil into a target for evil and when it happens to us we begin to understand in an experiential way what the cross of Christ is all about.

    May we fill up what is lacking in his afflictions and suffer well.

  28. Jennifer says

    Frank, thanks so much for this post! Several years back my husband was the victim of a horrible personal attack. Someone from our church who was jealous of his success in ministry started spreading awful rumors and accusations. It was all false but some people who didn’t know us personally believed them. I can’t describe to you the pain this caused our family and my husband at the hands of fellow church people. This post is really healing for us. Thank you. Oh, we are reading your book on God’s Favorite Place and it’s just what we need during this time of our lives. Great book!

  29. David Roland says

    Frank; thank you, by the Spirit you have opened the eyes and hearts of readers looking to keep one self free of the poison of gossip/slander. I love to write and I have to re-read what I post before posting. I would not want to ever fall into a place of critical judgment. If I ever were to post in greiveous error against anyone or anything I pray those seeing what I missed, even if it were not meant to be…would contact me and share for I truly only desire Christ Jesus and that His Body grow as one in His unity of His Spirit of His Faith. Christ is perfecting His body by bringing about His mind & His love into the hearts and lives of His bride to be. Once again thanks for sending the link it truly is an honor to be with a body deeply in love with Almighty God…Glory to Jesus the Living Christ.

    • says

      Great point, David. Part of the problem is that, say in President Obama’s case, that there *are* politicians who abuse drugs, who harass people sexually, have affairs, and there are Muslim terrorists on the planet. So this makes the gullible fall for such accusations without any solid evidence, thinking, “Oh boy, there’s another one.” But no one would want to be treated like this if they were the one being falsely accused.

      If you look at what Jesus was accused of during his time, as well as Paul (see my post on this at the bottom), Wesley, Nee, Sparks, Willard, Manning, Warren, etc. – one will find that this is par for the course. Some people are ruthless, especially when they are motivated by jealousy.

      The point is very simple. People — even professing “Christians” — lie about others. So we should never just believe something without going straight to the person -as we would want done if it were us being attacked.

      Even though this is clearly stated in the Bible (slander is condemned many times in both OT and NT and Jesus said “go to your brother/sister” if you have an issue with him/her), I learned this lesson the hard way by my own screw up of listening and believing slander without hearing the other side many years ago.

  30. Meagan says

    Good word Frank! “hurt people hurt people if they haven’t tasted the cross” We can’t judge those who haven’t yet tasted the cross…just continually love them and pursue the Lord for and with them! Thanks for sharing brother!

  31. Ransom Backus says

    This is me in a nutshell: A frustrated 30 something man who has trudged through a world of lies and half truths, been dancing on the shifting sands of information and misinformation in a sickly beautiful and evil world built on both, sick, tired, and frustrated with it all and an almost obsessive passion for the truth. It’s easy to become cynical, and I think the rumor mill generators and the men behind the curtain of this dark circus sideshow do it intentionally. Satan is the master deceiver and thrives on confusion. The days are evil, let us pray that God keeps us in the coming tide.

    • says

      I appreciate you, Ransom. Shame on those who don’t go to you directly to find out truth from falsehood when they hear rumors. 1 Peter 2 and 3 are very encouraging on this score. Rejoice when this happens, for your partaking of the sufferings of Christ Himself. An honor.

  32. Sarah says

    This is a great post! I removed several people from twitter and facebook because I got tired of them repeatedly smearing other Christians. It’s really sick if you ask me. It makes me ashamed to be called Christian.

    I really liked your article 5 Reasons to Unfriend Someone on Facebook. I’m glad you put a link to it here.

    I appreciate your work and can’t wait to start your new book. I’ve heard great things about it.

  33. Mike W says

    Good post! Over the years my motto has become, “Don’t even believe everything you think.” At least, not until you’ve had a chance to think it through.

    “You will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.”

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