How to avoid getting smeared

Originally written for challenge – 17th March 2016 – Topic: smear. (Slightly edited)

(It still seems relevant, with the accusations flying around Brexit, both in the UK and EU, the sometimes brutal fight between Trump and Clinton in the US, and the ongoing struggles within PSOE in Spain)

It’s election season, and Politicians are out for your vote. Members of the Scottish Parliament are seeking re-election to the chamber in Holyrood, whilst Westminster MPs are battling it out over the future of the United Kingdom within (or outwith) the European Union.

But much of the campaigning (at least as reported in the news media) centres on bringing down the other candidates, pointing out the faults in the opponent’s character. So little of politics these days seems to be conducted in a spirit of co-operation. Even the attempts to form a coalition government in Spain focus more on differences than the shared common ground.

I recently observed children writing with markers on shiny card. Because the ink was slow to dry, they smudged their work and got black hands. The same happens when we carelessly brush against a newly painted door, or when an artist rubs charcoal on a drawing. It’s not possible to smear a substance without getting some on yourself.

The same is true in our dealing with people: often in questioning another person’s character or motives, we find ourselves behaving in a way that reflects badly on us. Candidates in the US presidential race and British politicians for and against Brexit have been challenged over the manner in which they challenge others.

Perhaps our politicians need to take note of Jesus warning: ‘Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way as you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” (Matthew 7:1-2, NIVUK). But are we any better? Often I have been quick to criticise other people, but I’m not keen when it works the other way. That’s not to say we musn’t disagree with others; and at times our voice should be strong. But it should be done with care for the other person or we undermine our own case.

Discussions on social media can become quite heated, sometimes nasty. For this reason, many forums have guidelines which include, “assume good faith” and “don’t flame.” They could also apply to our Christian lives. So next time you feel like roasting someone alive, beware, or the same may happen to you.

Or put another way: if you want to avoid smudges on your character, beware of smearing others.

About prophetable

My wife Elizabeth and I were commissioned as Officers (ministers) in The Salvation Army in 1997, and have served in appointments in England and Scotland. Since July 2016 I have been working in The Salvation Army's Scotland Office as combined parliamentary and ecumenical representative.
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