Let’s just assume you are being accused, wrongly, and the accusation does not ring of truth. Here are 5 things you can do.
One thing that really bugs me is when my husband yells across the house, “Why did you move my shoes?”
Move his shoes? Does he think I sometimes sneak out of bed at 2:00 AM and move his shoes to a different location within our house with the express purpose of sending him on a shoe scavenger hunt? The goal being to place them in an unlikely spot, but ultimately a place he will eventually find if he wanders and searches enough. Like maybe tucked next to the guest room toilet. Perhaps on a shelf in the pantry. Or maybe behind the potted plant so only the toes are sticking out.
Some people may hear this comment as, “Where are my shoes.” And this is how my husband is saying it. But I hear an accusation. I feel I am being questioned and accused of something I didn’t do.
Even if it is only for moving his shoes.
And then there are other times, where I am accused of bigger things.
Times where I have been attacked, misjudged, and false conclusions have been made about me.
Sometimes I am guilty, and other times I am not.
It’s part of life and dealing with humans. I’ve done it to others, and they have done it to me. And it isn’t pleasant.
When we are at fault we can apologize and make amends.
What can we do when we are wrongly accused? Either directly or indirectly? When someone we know is telling us we are a bad person, exhibiting bad behavior that we are not responsible for, have ruined something way beyond our control, or have a pattern of wrong deeds and we feel it simply is not true.
Determine these two questions: time and motivation.
Before you start responding to their accusations, you want to ask yourself a few questions.
- Is it worth your time to address this comment?
Sometimes it is, and sometimes it is not. Only you can determine this. But we don’t want to waste our time with people we will not see again. On unimportant items. Or on trying to change someone’s mind or opinion that likely we will never change.
If someone is accusing you of putting the spoons in the wrong space in the silverware drawer. Maybe let it go. It doesn’t really matter. Remember the adage, choose your battles wisely.
Maybe your uncle is baiting you into a political argument. The chances of either of you changing each other’s mind is slim, so move onto the topic of the weather. Refuse to take the bait.
- What is the person’s motivation in accusing you?
Sometimes we are falsely accused out of ignorance, by accident, or because they only know part of the story and are trying to guess the rest.
Other times the accusation is done more deliberately. Their goal is to accuse, throw off balance, deflect the focus of them self, shame, manipulate, or scapegoat.
They may be responding in anger, jealousy, guilt, or any other feeling.
If someone is accusing you of ruining the whole vacation, or that because of you they cannot succeed at work, their motivation is not to have a rational discussion. More likely, they are trying to not take responsibility for anything they can control, and instead are blaming you for their portion of the equation. You will waste your time responding to these accusations and their motivation is not to solve anything.
It is important to gauge the person’s motivation (or intentions) because it helps determine how to respond to the person.
If we respond the same way to both motivations (an accidental or deliberate accusation), we will get frustrated and waste a lot of energy and time.
How Jesus dealt with false accusations.
Jesus looked at the motivation behind his conversations with others.
Some people asked for healing, others wanted answers to questions, and some were looking for help.
Others came to trap him, manipulate him, or to make themselves look good. Often these were the religious leaders.
The first category he helped and listened to.
The second category he didn’t.
When the religious leaders accused him of healing on the Sabbath (a common complaint of theirs) he deflected their questions or turned the questions back to them because he knew their intentions and saw their motivations. He knew their ears were unwilling to listen or learn. He knew they were trying to make themselves look good and him look bad. He knew their accusations were saying more about their heart than his.
Not once did he spend time arguing with them. Defending himself. Trying to show them his position and outline why he was right. Nor did he keep listening to them, with the hopes they would eventually listen to him and respect him.
He also did not apologize for something he did not do. Agree to their assessment. Nor was he afraid of their words. He knew the truth. Knew their words were lies.
He knew the conversation would go nowhere and often quietly left in the middle of their schemes.
Our first response when we are falsely accused is to fight back. Defend our self. Try and explain our position.
But often this just blows things open.
Jesus often answered their questions with his own question. And then left the scene.
Why we take the accusations personally.
We can learn a lot from Jesus and how he responded to false accusations.
Key point = he did not engage.
He saw their motivation and that their mind was made up. He saw the fruitlessness of talking with them while they were angry and in an accusatory mood. He knew it would not have been a conversation that included listening and learning.
I wish I had learned his trick years ago. Or as a therapist has said, “Don’t take it personally.”
But I do. I have a hard time NOT taking it personally or separating myself from their comment and accusation.
Partly because I hold myself to a certain standard and I want to be seen and thought of as a certain way.
That’s why the shoe comment makes me cringe.
I know I am helpful and would not deliberately hide people’s shoes in the middle of the night. It bothers me to think I may be seen this way. I want to defend myself and convince the person that I am not a shoe hiding person. That their image of me is false.
Partly because I am placing their view and opinion of me as more important than God’s view and opinion of me.
I’m guessing Jesus did not have this problem. He was secure in God’s opinion and view of him and didn’t take things people said so personally. The human court had no sway over him. What did it matter what others thought? He and his father knew the truth and that was more important than what others thought.
Not only do I take comments personally, I often tie them to my worth. If I am seen as a shoe hiding person, that must affect my value and lovability to others and God. When in fact, nothing affects our value to God. He alone determines our worth. Not people accusing us of things.
Some helpful tips to keep in mind.
I don’t have all the answers, but here are somethings that work for me.
First evaluate the intent or motivation behind the comment. If it rings of truth and the person desires to address it in love and truth, listen and make steps to solve the problem.
Apologize and repent if you are at fault and then walk in God’s freedom.
If it seems the person accusing you has no interest in you as a person, or interest in your side of the story, it may be time to walk away. If their intent is only to judge and condemn and not be a friend who is trying to help you, then this is not a conversation to engage in.
If you end up having the conversation and you go away confused, not listened to, and unsure of what just happened, just know it was not a healthy give and take conversation. This person assumed they already know the reason, circumstances, or solution to your problems and didn’t feel the need to ask any questions or really listen. This conversation was more for their benefit than yours.
Crazy making conversations often have little truth in them, but they are the ones that can do the most damage. When you are wrongly accused, do the following:
- Don’t tie the accusations to your image, lovability, or worth.
Let it go and don’t take it personally. You don’t have to pick the accusation up and put it on for size if it is not true. Strive to please God more than people.
- Stop engaging with the person on the topic.
Tying to defend yourself, give your side, and helping them see the truth rarely works.
Stop wasting time, energy, and sleep over things you cannot control. One thing we cannot control is what others think of us.
Let them have their own opinion. It matters more what God thinks, than what they think.
- Seek wisdom.
Take comfort knowing God sees, knows, and loves you. Share your problem and the accusations with God (David did this in Psalms). He will give you encouragement, grace, and help. And if it is true, he will convict you.
You may also want to talk to a wise friend and get their take.
- Compare their viewpoint with God’s viewpoint.
They may say you are a horrible person. God sees you differently. He sees you as a flawed and sinful human that is forgiven and in the process of being redeemed. You may lie, but God doesn’t see you as only a liar. Remember that our enemy wants us to have a distorted view of ourselves and be defeated and feel condemned by God. When we feel like this, he rejoices.
- Laugh at the ridiculousness of the accusation.
Maybe they are accusing you of turning the whole family against them. Humor can put things into perspective. Try to laugh at this comment because it implies you have the power to control all your family member’s thoughts about this one person. Which no one can do. It’s impossible to change anyone’s opinion, so how could you change all 32 family member’s opinions?
Step back and look with different eyes.
When we can step back and look at the accusations hurled at us with eyes that are not so concerned with appearing almost perfect. When we can let others have opinions different from us, even if they are false and about us. When we stop tying our image to the words of others and their opinions, we are on the way to not being derailed by the accusations of others.
When we don’t take the comments personally, we can actually evaluate the words and better see the motive behind them. Often times the accusations have a lot more to do with them and the state of their heart, than it does us.
We always have the choice to disengage and not pursue the conversation.
And yes, I’m preaching to myself loud and clear.
I am going to start letting the comments from my husband, about where I moved his shoes to, not bother me so much. I am going to take a few deep breaths and just let it go.
Then I’m going to tell him they are in the pantry. Third shelf from the top, next to the canned corn.
And when he looks there, because he will, and he says they are not there, I’ll tell him that someone must have moved them after I did.
Remember: God does not accuse us like other humans do. He convicts us.
Join the Discussion: What helps you when you are wrongly accused?
I am excited to introduce you to a new book: Faith Talk. Put together by Heather Heart from Candidly Christian. It is written by a number of contributing authors answering these two questions: 1. Why do you believe in Jesus, and 2. Why is faith important to you? Each chapter will help you see how the gospel is at work in your life.
As a contributor to the book, I wrote about how my foundational beliefs about God have changed through the years. How I don’t have to earn God’s love, but that he freely gives it.
Last week’s winner who commented was Lisa Blair.
Someone who comments on this post will also receive a free copy of Faith Talk.
May link up at Maree Dee (#Grace & Truth), Anita Ojeda (#inspirememonday), InstaEncouagements ((IE Link-Up), and Jeanne Takenaka (#tellhisstory).
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Lisa Blair says
I appreciate your insights, Theresa. This truth about Jesus stands out, “He knew their accusations were saying more about their heart than His.”
It has taken most of my life to realize I don’t have to respond to every comment. And with that comes freedom. And less conflict.
Linda Stoll says
Theresa, thanks for this reminder to thoughtfully respond rather than flying off the handle as we react foolishly.
Can’t remember anything good that came out of rash moments. And all kinds of healing can come out of listening, speaking softly … and asking for forgiveness.
I learn so much here from your heart, your pen. Thank you.
Thanks Linda. Those rash and unplanned thoughts oftrn lead to nowhere. Or to having to apologize.
Theresa I love the way you worked through this. My husband does similar things to me all the time, and I am always receiving them as accusations, taking them personally, defending myself and ultimately it all ends up a mess every time. Your advice is super helpful and I am so grateful I came here today!!
Thanks Donna. Sounds like we are alike. We hear accusations, but are married to men whose intent is not to accuse us. I have to keep going back to my husband’s intent. And I know it is not to really accuse me. I need to not take it personally, and instead give him grace.
Lois Flowers says
I laughed at your ending, Theresa. 🙂 But the rest is so practical and wise. One thing my dad taught me—just by being this way himself—was not to take what other people did and said personally. I don’t always succeed at this, of course. It’s hard when we are being falsely or unfairly accused but you’re right … we always have the choice to disengage or not respond in kind.
I’m glad you laughed. I wanted a touch of humor for the ending of a serious subject. Thanks for sharing about your wise dad.
Barbara Harper says
I have problems with taking accusations (even unintended ones) personally. I think the main problem is I want to subconsciously project this image of perfection. On the one hand, I know I am not perfect and I want to be authentic. But when someone thinks I have done something wrong–how COULD they? Me? Sigh. I do things wrong more often than they know.
I had not thought of that before, but what a good idea to consider the intent behind the accusations. Sometimes it’s out of frustration and not meant as an accusation. And when someone has their mind made up already, doesn’t want to listen, or the issue is trivial–I need God’s grace to let it go and rest in His love and knowledge of the real me.
Hi Barbara, I know for me, that the desire to project an image of perfection tripped me up for years. Learning to not take things so personally, learning to laugh at myself, and realizing I am far from perfect has helped me in this area. Although there is still work to do 🙂 .And striving for God’s approval and not man’s helps me put things into perspective. Christ had a lot of people disagreeing with him and accusing him of things (and he was perfect), so why do I think I will somehow skate through life without any accusations either. It does seem rather silly when I think of it that way.
Tricia Opitz says
I also found your ending delightful and appreciate your insight about dealing with false accusations. I tend to take everything too personally, and I’m sure it would help me if I didn’t. As you said, I need to be concerned with what God thinks instead of what people think.
Theresa Boedeker says
Hi Tricia, it does help remembering God’s opinion of us.
Anita Ojeda says
This is just what I needed to read this morning! I, too, suffer from guilt when someone asks me a question I can’t answer (I love the reply you’ll use next time your husband asks you about his shoes). I can be like a badger and not want to let go of things and I engage all too easily. Your wise words will help me do some quick evaluations in the future and stop walking down the twisty path of self-defense when it will do no good. God knows my heart and he knows I’m a work in progress.
Theresa Boedeker says
Thanks Anita. I hate answering questions I can’t answer. I get nervous about saying the wrong thing. For me, I know it stems from childhood. But I am no longer in that environment and need to realize there is often no right or wrong answer, even when it feels like there is. And if I make a mistake or say the wrong thing, that is allowed. And like you said, God knows my heart. Life is just one learning opportunity.
Beautiful post, Theresa.
I sure needed these words. I’m saving your post and reading will read often.
Theresa Boedeker says
Lisa Jordan says
This is so timely for me because my husband and I just had a similar conversation the other day. He asked, “What did you do with my _____?” I asked, “What makes you think I did something with it? Why do you always assume it’s me?” So, yeah, the wisdom of your words is so convicting. I’ll keep these in mind, especially not engaging, the next time I’m feeling accused or attacked.
Theresa Boedeker says
Thanks for sharing, Lisa. And if your husband is like mine, he doesn’t see the comment as an accusation. So then we are fighting about the definition of an accusation. Which of course is different for both of us. 🙂
Great advice. I will try to remember that God looks at my heart and respond instead of react.
That’s my goal too. We will be trying together.
Lisa notes says
Smiling at your comment to tell your husband his shoes are on the third shelf from the top. I’ll have to remember to use humor myself next time. 🙂 This is a fantastic post, Theresa. I feel I’ve been falsely accused recently, and it’s really doing a number on me. 🙁 Your advice here is wise and godly. Thank you! I’ll be featuring this on Friday at my blog for the Grace & Truth linkup.
Theresa Boedeker says
Humor works well in out household. If I can say something almost humorous, everything instantly dissolves and the fight or situation is over for both of us. It is something I learned over time. Thanks for featuring my post.
I can relate to this post way too much. When I am falsely accused I take it as a blow to my character. Knowing full well who I am and whose I am. I am learning to decipher truth from accusation but it is hard. I am learning not to react but again it is hard. Thank you for your wisdom on this matter. You final comment about hiding the shoes in the pantry made me laugh out loud.
Theresa Boedeker says
Thanks Calvonia. It is hard for me to not take comments personally. I will be working on this for a long time. I find when I am not feeling the best emotionally, like maybe already questioning myself, I take the comments more personally. And when I am confident and feeling on top of things, I don’t take them so personally. So when comments bother me, it is a good time to slow down and ask if there is also something else going on.
Loved this post, Theresa! So glad you are not a shoe hiding person. Your analogy cracked me up. I’m a big fan of using humor whenever possible.
But you are so right. Think first, and you might decide the wisest thing is not to engage.
Humor seems to diffuse the tension and provide a re-do. Humor has not always been my go-to. But I am using it more now.
Not engaging is sometimes the wisest thing. I used to worry about what people thought of me (and if someone is accusing me then they obviously have a wrong assumption about me), but now I see what a waste of time it is. I can no more change a person’s mind, than I can hide invisible shoes. They may have a wrong assumption of me, but I am sure I also have wrong assumptions about them. The only one who knows the truth about all of us, is God.