Responding to Life’s Attack Ads

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by Bruce Strom

Turning on your TV in New Hampshire means viewing attack ads.  Images of the black and white scary candidate you can’t trust.  Maybe you don’t have much sympathy for politicians, but what happens when you are the recipient of an attack ad?  Maybe not on TV, but an attack on your character.  How do you respond?

This week I was challenged in just this way.  I could see the black and white images roll in my mind – Strom can’t be trusted.  Liar, schemer – you get the picture.  I’m sure you’ve been there.   For leaders it happens pretty often, but whether in a leadership position or not, we’ve all been attacked.  What do you do?  Many clients feel this way and view this as an issue of injustice.  Here are thoughts I’ve shared and try to follow.

First, listen.  Some attack ads have an element of truth.  Be slow to speak and quick to listen.  All of us have blind spots.  Maybe there is something in what is being said upon which you can agree.  Own that.  Gently challenge the rest.  Honestly I don’t always say things perfectly.  If I had a fact checker following up on everything I said, I would not always pass.  Most of the time I don’t think it is “False”, but it certainly fits in the “Sort of” category.  I wish I chose my words more precisely so as not to create confusion or a false impression.  It’s hard to communicate perfectly.  Hopefully I’m not the only person who finds that to be true.  But I can own my shortcomings, listen to the attacks, and try to be more sensitive in the future.

Second, trust God.  I used to argue – after all I’m a lawyer.  Seemed to me that the other person had to know all the facts and see how dangerous it was to make assumptions and impugn one’s character.  My brilliant response would cause them to immediately repent.  For some reason that didn’t happen.  You’ve seen the politician try to fight back.  It usually isn’t pretty.  Best to overlook the offense.  When it is too serious to do that then find someone else who is trusted to speak.  After all if you are not trusted, why would anyone listen to you?  Why waste a lot of sleep over the perfect response to prove yourself right?  Instead trust yourself to a righteous God.  He is the defender of the weak.  He is your stronghold.  He knows your heart better than you do and you want to be a God pleaser not a man pleaser.  “Commit your way to the Lord, trust in Him and he will do this:  He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn, your vindication like the noonday sun.” Ps. 37:6.

Third, love.  Love covers a multitude of sins.  We are told to love our enemies.  That might be a strong word for the competitor, spouse, friend, co-worker or other person creating the attack ad, but we are called to respond in love.  Don’t attack back – even in your mind.  Thank them for having the courage to speak, examine your heart, let them know what you can own and where you disagree, and let God be the judge.  The best way to respond to criticism and attacks is to recognize that Jesus suffered the greatest criticism, smear campaign, and attack ad of all time.  He took ALL of it upon himself and died for you.  There is no greater love.  That love covers your sins.  Humble yourself before that loving God and He will graciously lift you up.  If you follow Him and trust Him, he will let the light of your life so shine before men that they will glorify your father in heaven.  That’s what I want.

To my critical friends – thank you.  I will try to be more conscious of my words.  I will respond in love and trust God to reveal truth.  I pray my life reflects humble service to my Savior, but I know that will never be perfect because I am imperfect.  When the attack ads come, may we listen, trust God, love and

Go and Do Likewise.