Don’t Believe Everything You Hear or Read

Don’t Believe Everything You Hear or Read September 22, 2018

Originally published in 2012.

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.

In 2012, 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).

In 2013, Rick Warren was personally attacked, judged, and lied about by professing Christians.

In the 2016 USA Presidential election, Senator Ted Cruz was accused by The National Enquirer of having affairs with five women. The story was quickly debunked as “fake news.” Despite this, many people believed and spread the lies.

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 who 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.

It’s about 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 (at 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

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  • Sarah Conners

    Thank you for this post. It’s great. My husband was once slandered by some members of our church. The pain to my family was unspeakable especially from some in the church believing it. A year later the truth came out and he was vindicated but the damage was done. Christian people shouldn’t believe what they read and go to whoever is being talked about. I’ve forwarded this article to my husband and children, I know it will be healing for them.

  • I was, but I was also mad at myself for believing the lies. I wish I could say that this never happens today. But it does, unfortunately. God bless.


    Psalm 115:1

  • Did you read the entire post? If someone is abusing someone, that should be made known to the authorities. If someone has been rebuked for sin according to Matthew 18, and witnesses (multiple) have gone to the person urging them to stop (repent) and they still keep doing it — which would include the sin of slander — then of course that should be made public per Jesus words. I’ve addressed this elsewhere.

    This particular post simply states that many things that are said about people aren’t always true. And they are often false. (Just look at the example of Jesus and Paul I gave. I also gave examples of Rick Warren and President Obama.

    The point is singular: don’t believe everything you hear or read. If you have a concern, if the person is accessible, go to them. I learned this lesson from a screw up in my own life that I talked about in the post.

  • trskms

    In other words, I think you should have been angry at your friend for LYING to you, not for sharing with you (had his accusations been true.)

  • trskms

    Hmmm … so if someone is abused by their spouse, their parent, a teacher, etc. you shouldn’t believe them if they tell you about it? Because, according to what you said, “the person who goes around complaining about someone else is the one who is spinning the facts and leaving out key plot-points.”

    And, of course, if the other side is a consummate liar? And, he/she denies the abuse/vicious treatment?

    So, then, because you don’t want to hear “gossip,” abuse (e.g. this can be emotional, physical, sexual, or spiritual) goes on and on and on, because — in our Christian community — we claim that “complaining” or telling someone is “gossip” and “unChristian.”

    So, what do we get? Ministries and people who perpetrate great evil for many, many years, until it finally explodes into a huge scandal (e.g. recent pastoral resignations in a mega-church, priests and sexual abuse, teachers who’ve abused kids for years, women who’ve been battered for years, etc.)

    Or, on a smaller scale, we simply get fearful Christians who can’t tell others to avoid certain classes, schools, ministries, churches, etc. because that would be “unChristian.” So, because they were not warned, other people go and get hurt and the cycle perpetuates itself over and over again. When we don’t warn others to at least be cautious, we open them up to receiving the same poor treatment (we hid it when we knew!!), pay money they shouldn’t have paid to people who didn’t deserve it, and to think they “are the only ones” (a standard response when a concern is brought to some people), because our Christian culture doesn’t permit sharing such things.

    I cannot find a single example of Christ or the apostles being quiet about sin in leaders or in groups in the Bible. In fact, they got pretty downright feisty about it! If you follow Matthew 18, and things go unresolved, you are permitted to treat the other party as an unbeliever!

    Of course, we should show grace (no one is perfect). Of course, we should try to find out the other side when we can (Proverbs 18:17 “The first to present his case seems right, till another comes forward and questions him.”), but this idea that when you’re hurt you’re just supposed to suck it up and stay quiet because otherwise you’re a gossip and unChristian is — honestly — just opening up the door for many wolves to go rampaging through the sheep. 🙁