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What To Do With Rumors

Abraham Lincoln’s coffin was pried open twice.

The first occasion was in 1887, twenty-two long years after his assassination. Why? You may be surprised to know it was not to determine if he had died of a bullet fired from John Wilkes Booth’s derringer. Then why? Because a rumor was sweeping the country that his coffin was empty. A select group of witnesses observed that the rumor was totally false, then watched as the casket was resealed with lead.

A second time, fourteen years later, the martyred man’s withered body was viewed again – this time by even more witnesses. Why again? For the same grim purpose! Rumors of the same nature had again implanted doubts in the public’s mind. The pressure mounted to such proportions, that the same ghoulish, grotesque ceremony had to be carried out. In spite of the strong protests of Lincoln’s son Robert, the body was exposed a second time. Then finally – the corpse was permanently embedded in a crypt at Springfield. (Charles R. Swindoll, Growing Strong in the Seasons of Life. Portland, OR: Multnomah Press, 1983, pp. 105-107.)

Pretty cruel, right? But rumors are like that. Lacking authoritative facts and direct source, information is loosely disseminated, creating unrest and harm. It is pandered by busybodies who cater to the sick appetite in petty people. Swindoll says, “Those who feed on rumors are small, suspicious souls. They find satisfaction in trafficking in poorly-lit alleys, dropping subtle bombs that explode in others’ minds by lighting the fuse of suggestion. They find comfort in being only an ‘innocent’ channel of the unsure information … never the source. The omnipresent phrases ‘They say’ or ‘Have you heard?’ or ‘I understand from others’ provides safety for the rumor-spreader.”

A pastor for more than 35 years, I have dealt with my share of rumors, and I have the scars to prove it.

So what do you do with rumors?

I submit Swindoll’s four suggestions for silencing rumor-mongers:

  1. Identify sources by name. If someone is determined to share information that is damaging or hurtful, request that the source be specifically stated.

  2. Support evidence with facts. Do not accept hearsay. Refuse to listen unless honest-to-goodness truth is being communicated. You can tell. Truth is rarely veiled or uncertain. Rumors fade when exposed to the light.

  3. Ask the person, “May I quote you?” It’s remarkable how quickly rumor-spreaders can turn four shades of red! Equally remarkable is the speed with which they can backpedal.

  4. Openly admit, “I don’t appreciate hearing that.” This approach is for the strong. It might drive a wedge between you and the guilty … but it’s a sure way to halt the regular garbage delivery to your ears.

You may want to look up Proverbs 10:11, Proverbs 15:1-7, and James 3:12, just in case you need a little more support from Scripture.


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