What do you do when someone says hurtful things, perhaps not to your face but to others you care about and to others you’ll never know? That’s happened to me. It’s happened to all of us. I share some of my experiences in Fractured Into Wholeness, and although my ex didn’t say much negative about me when he walked away from the marriage, he decided to dredge up some old stuff after some time passed. I get it. He needed to justify himself. But it’s been hard to see how that has damaged relationships with people who have a broader perspective and see the conflicts of the details. It’s hard to know that deception will erode integrity and relationships. But I know I can’t control that.
I hate the hurt deception causes. I’m not concerned about myself, because I have context and truth and distance from him. I know he won’t try to sell me the same accusations and distortions he’ll present to others because there is accountability with me. I won’t get angry and retaliatory. I won’t speak about him in the same way he speaks about me. But I would (if I had contact with him) gently remind him of the facts in context. I was often perplexed at the height of his anger when he would say things directed at me but that had little to do with me. He was describing himself. He spewed and tried to project it onto me or someone else, but what it actually did was described and revealed him.
And that’s why I’m writing this today, as a reminder that people often project lies they believe about themselves onto you. They’re not healed and healthy, and they feel they must do something with all of the unresolved stuff. They can’t fathom reflecting on it themselves. They can’t swallow it, so they vomit it onto people close to them. They feel better, so they think what they did is healthy and right. But it’s not. It is self-harming and evasive and defensive and damaging.
Their offense doesn’t have to become yours. You don’t have to, in turn, spew on someone else. You get the choice to fight for peace and truth and humility. You get to listen enough to separate truth from lies. You get to learn from the truth and grow in it and set aside the lies, refusing to let them become a part of you. And that’s hard to do.
We tend to listen and absorb the negative. Unless it is compared to and framed in truth, we’ll become deceptive ourselves. Refuse to deceive yourself or others. Stay out of the quagmire. Know what boundaries you must have in order to be healthy. Healthy boundaries aren’t excuses to step away from what needs to be faced. The boundaries we set in one season might need to changed in another because people change and the situation changes.
Stay alert and be honest and humble. Grow in the areas you can learn from. Uproot any bitterness. Commit to the process of forgiveness. And be committed to truth. You might not fix the situation, and you will likely see continued hurt among people you love because of the ongoing ripple effects of naïve or manipulative deception. You don’t have to accept the invitation to play the game. You have a better invitation to be humble, authentic, and faithful. Be intentional about the RSVPs you send.