Reasons Why Rumors Spread So Easily
"Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, MALIGNITY; whisperers." Romans 1:29
Why are some likely to believe (and repeat) the worse reports about people despite a lack of factual evidence, and/or hearing the other side of the story?
Malignity, the term Paul uses in Romans 1:19, is translated as kakoetheia in the Greek, defined as “the spirit which puts the worse construction on everything”. Paul describes malignity as the fruits of a debased mind. Aristotle defined the term as “a tendency to suppose the worse about other people.” Other writers of that era such as Pliny delineate the word as “a twisted interpretation of fellow humanity”. If you have ever had someone read wrong motives into your good deeds, you’ve been the victim of malignity.
But why do some suppose the worst about their neighbors? Why are character assassinations so easy (especially in our era)? The old rule of order, “innocent until PROVEN guilty” is obsolete; an accusation alone is enough for the masses to call for the guillotine. Below, you will find a few theories on what makes character assassinations so easy….
1. Deflection – Laying into someone else conveniently diverts my attention from looking into myself. Everyone’s focus (including my own) is off my character defects when John’s recent marital affair takes front and center, or when the news about the pastor’s misappropriating funds steal the limelight. As Tony Montana stated in that unforgettable scene from Scarface, "You need people like me so you can point your fingers and say, 'that's a bad guy'."
2. Competition – Despite what humanism teaches, mankind is a cut-throat species that thrives off other people’s misfortunes. A secret competition lies underneath the surface regarding who’s the smartest, strongest, sexiest and even most spiritual. One person’s failure is another another’s opportunity to shine. In the words of Winston Churchill, “Competition might bring out the best in product, but it draws out the worst in men”.
3. Retaliation – Whenever offense transpires, the desire for payback immediately rears its head. To strike back, bloodthirsty offended parties scout for the most scandalous information about the people who injured them. Haven’t you noticed that right after you offend someone, they seek out friendships with other people you’ve offended; a retaliatory coup to assassinate your character. Strange bedfellows come together such as “the Pharisees and Herodians” conspiring to verbally (& physically) massacre the one who ticked them off (Mark 3:26).