One of the most potent examples of “something’s been said” is when individuals engage in a smear campaign. What is a smear campaign? It can be defined as an effort to mislead, damage or call into question someone’s reputation, by sharing negative information whether truthful, outright lies, or exaggerations. It can be used by individuals or groups in almost any setting from family, friends, the work place, or even within our government.
I am pointing out this particular type of tactic because it can be very damaging. In many cases, the intended target of the smear campaign may have no idea what is being said. Everyone else may know but the target is left in the dark. The target may notice changes in treatment and even experience social isolation. They are presumed guilty on the word of an individual(s) without absolute proof or an opportunity to clarify, explain, or refute accusations. No one cares to hear both sides of the story or to gain clarification on events.
I have witnessed others being the object of such treatment and been the intended target personally as well. I am a strong advocate of transparency in relationships and open communication particularly when there is conflict. It is a healthy way to resolve issues when the goal is reconciliation but it requires mutual intention and truthfulness. We are spiritual beings having a human experience so no one is perfect or exempt from fault. Therefore, we all can learn from one another just by listening with empathy and compassion to create relational balance. It should be apparent that the intention of a smear campaign is not reconciliation but rather to injure and damage the person being targeted at all costs. In other words, someone wants to WIN.
Many people do attempt to have direct conversions with individuals with whom they are experiencing a conflict or difference of opinion. Most healthy relationships are built upon open and appropriate communication. I respect these people for their integrity and courage. Relationships are not successful if both parties aren’t mature enough, willing to be accountable, and honest. Many unsuccessful relationships involve secrets and gossip rather than airing out grievances directly. Many people can’t take direct honesty because it allows others to judge or critique them on their views and actions. Moral integrity requires directness if for no other reason than to see where one really stands in relationships. No pretense, fakery, frenemies need apply. It frees the spirit.
In my youth, I paid close attention to both the words and actions of the people around me. Even though I saw the hypocrisy, I’ve been guilty of repeating this negative pattern and formed opinions about others based upon hearsay too. I paid dearly for my actions. It did not serve my higher good and even as a child I knew it. As an adult, however, I have learned to be generally very direct, and to the point – hard and black, no chaser. So, in hindsight, the disappointment in my own past behavior led me to make a conscious decision to change.
If we can agree with the general biblical moral principle that “You shall not bear false witness” (Exodus 20:16), a smear campaign has major lessons hidden within this toxic experience for those who engage in such practices as well as for the intended targets. Here are some personal lessons I’ve learned from the toxic smear campaign trap.
Use your own discernment. We were given two ears and one mouth for reason. If you choose to listen to negative gossip, at the very least let it run through your brain for an assessment. Does it ring true to what you know about the person? Can it be investigated to gather more information to confirm before repeating? Is it even important? I have seen people full of jealousy and envy go to great lengths to spy, conspire, sabotage, and slander targets. Is it worth a direct conversation rather than going on hearsay? What is the effect of repeating or acting on such information? What if the intended target is innocent? These questions should make one more careful when prematurely judging and acting on information provided by another. Remember to beware of the dog that brings a bone. There is also a saying that real eyes will eventually see real lies.
Evaluate Character. The person who engages in a smear campaign makes a conscious decision to use this tactic to attack another person often secretly. From my observation, this person either approaches you using poor me, charm, or hater energy to engage bystanders into their toxic web to smear another. It is insidious, disarming, and cowardly all at the same time. My grandfather taught me to judge people on their character. Period! My mother always expressed her personal mantra that “actions speak louder than words”. Both of these beliefs can provide the moral foundation for evaluating gossip and smear campaigns.
Ask Questions. Fact finding is a very necessary aspects of living in these times. No one can be trusted 100%. Personally, I do not take anyone’s word over my own intuition, experience, observations, and wisdom. Those who smear others do not like to be questioned too deeply. Too many questions could expose inaccuracies, or even worse the true character and intentions of the accuser. It is often uncomfortable to put people on the spot but a necessary strategy if one truly wants to understand and evaluate the accuracy of an issue.
Individuals who legitimately just want to share their hurtful or challenging experience will have a different response to being questioned. They will generally respond with candor and demonstrate some accountability for their participation and actions in the events as well. Your intuition should tell you if the information expressed deserves your compassion and empathy.
Remember Accountability and Consequence. We are all responsible for our actions, both positive and negative. No one is ultimately exempt. The accuser might win in the short run, but the universe plays chess not checkers. Some call this cause and effect – KARMA – which can be both positive and negative depending on your moral compass and intentions towards others. Religious practices and sharing spiritual quotes won’t exempt you from consequences if your words (both public and private) do not match your actions. From the words of my late grandfather in his southern dialect, “Baby if you dig a ditch for someone, just know one is being dug just right for you.” And so it is ……
All of the points mentioned above are in no way intended to describe all aspects of smear campaigns. I do not want to dwell on anything having such a low vibration other than to give specific examples of tactics not utilized resulting in something’s been said. It lays the foundation for understanding many topics discussed on this blog.