Handling Defamation… Can You?
We need to be able to reach a stage where we can go beyond praise and defamation. We do not have too much trouble accepting praise, in fact when we are ego tripping then we will definitely crave praise. But, when it comes to the negative return: How ready are we to accept defamation then?
Defamation is any false communication in written or spoken words that is intended to harm a person’s reputation. Defamation is a generalized term, slander can be seen as the verbal form of defamation, and here it is really helpful to have a witness to a slanderous statement. Libel on the other hand can be in some written form where something untrue has been said about you.
We must all have been in such situations where we have found ourselves being defamed, whether it was our fault or not. People just have to voice an opinion, sometimes it is just plain gossiping, and sometimes it’s because they want to find fault in our life simply because they are not happy with their own life! Whatever the reason: What can we do when we find ourselves in such situations? How can we handle it?
I often think of the rich and famous… those Bollywood and Hollywood celebrities. Surely this must be an additional skill they need to develop, that of dealing with criticism and condemnation; not everyone who follows them is their fan! Well, at least a thicker skin would help. Many have committed suicide on the ladder to success. They found that they were unable to deal with the pressure of fame, and also the extreme pressure of any ‘de-famation’ in all its myriad forms.
If the case requires that you seek a legal remedy then here are some checking points to consider.
- Is the defamatory statement a lie? Is it untrue?
- Has there been any harm done to you? Has your reputation suffered in some measurable shape or form?
- Do you have any solid evidence as such? Can you prove it?
Not all negative statements about us would be deemed defamatory. Some may be people’s personal opinions and not actually fact, and so then there is no legal action that we can take. It is simply a matter of their opinion, and they have a right to it. So, for example if someone says: ‘…this actress was… the worst dressed ever…’ Well it’s their opinion and not necessarily defamatory. Although it might upset our feelings.
Most defamation is not injurious or life threatening,
but it is deemed to be a form of hurt.
But if it borderlines and spoils our reputation in anyway or causes harm, such as a loss of business as a result of people saying for example: that this actor is abusive, violent or a rapist. Then that is heavy duty and could be admitted in the court of law. If as a result of this the victim of defamation loses their job or work contracts, or they suffer a heart attack, then all of that is measurable.
Most defamation is not injurious or life threatening, but it is deemed to be a form of hurt. It helps to keep written or video evidence of any purporting claims of defamation. Social media comments with the date and time and the sender’s name or profile picture etc. All this will count as evidence in a court of law.
Many countries have freedom of speech, but that does not mean that one can overstep the mark by saying whatever they like. There is a limit to what one can and cannot say. Check out the details first before getting all psyched up about it. Find out what are your legal rights.
When it comes to the spiritual viewpoint of handling defamation, then we need to stay calm and stay in our self-respect. We need to remain unemotional if we are to maintain any form of balance. There is a wonderful story of Master Buddha that is worth sharing that illustrates this point perfectly.
Whenever we send out anything bad,
if the receiver refuses to accept it, just like a gift,
then that gift will stay with the giver.
There may be variations on this story, but this is the gist. As the story goes Buddha was travelling through the country and stopped in a village to rest. He sat under a tree and began to meditate. Word got around that a famous holy teacher had arrived in their village and many people gathered to hear the great man. But he was silent and zoned out in his meditation.
One young man was frustrated because they had been waiting for a while, and the growing crowd meant that he could not get near to the Buddha. Then suddenly the man let loose with a barrage of anger and insults directed at the Buddha. The Buddha remained unmoved. Everyone was amazed by his calmness. Everyone observed the drama going on around The Master at the time and wondered how Buddha continued to remain calm and did not rebuke the angry young man. Then the Buddha spoke his words of wisdom:
“As a mirror reflects an object, as a still lake reflects the sky: take care that what you speak or act is for good. For goodness will always cast back goodness and harm will always cast back harm.”
There was a powerful lesson to be learnt here for everyone, especially the angry young man. Whenever we send out anything bad, if the receiver refuses to accept it, just like a gift, then that gift will stay with the giver. In this case the young man displayed all his colours of anger and directed that anger at Buddha. But the angry young man was the loser… because the anger stayed with him. Buddha did not take it on, or in!
So, therefore think twice before reacting to what someone says. If we react, it means we have accepted the criticism, and have begun preparing for a legal battle, however subtle, to defend our self! If we ignore it, our silence may have more power than the words which were wielded at us in the first place!
So, when someone defames us, it is their (negative) character that is being revealed more than ours. We doubt the intention of the defamer. What are they gaining as they denigrate others? Talking rudely or abusively about someone is not a spiritual trait. One needs to question themselves as to why they have the urge to behave in this way in the first place. With time, others will lose trust in them, because they will think… “Today they are slandering this person. Tomorrow it could be me!! It’s best to not be friends with them.”
Yes, defamation hurts for sure, we are not invincible. All great heroes, actors, sages and saints have had to endure defamation. Even God, who is defamed the most, as we throw our tantrums and complain to Him when we don’t get our desires fulfilled.
And this is why one needs to develop a powerful shield around the soul. When I was growing up, there used to be this song we would sing in the face of a bully at school. “Sticks and stone will hurt my bones, but words will never harm me…”
This is the kind of attitude we need to develop. A solid, strong one, in which, nothing penetrates our armour of self-respect. Through spiritual knowledge and meditation we can build up our inner power and resilience to what is after all just other people’s ‘stuff’. More often than not, we will find that jealousy lies behind such small mindedness and nastiness.
Of course, our conscience needs to be pure. If our heart is clean and clear and we are doing our best to be the best and give the best of our ‘self’, then anyone can say anything and we need not worry because our conscience is clear.
It’s Time… to put on our armour of self-respect.
© ‘It’s Time…’ by Aruna Ladva, BK Publications London, UK