…everything is different now. With one slanderous blogpost or tweet, we can destroy someone’s reputation in the eyes of thousands—all within a few hours. And because we do it from the privacy of our home, any reproof from the community comes too late. Once the bell of slander has been rung, it cannot be unheard. Some people will never look at the slandered person in the same way. The acid of slander has permanently marred them.
How to repent of slandering
But what happens if we have slandered someone publicly and want to repent? What does true repentance look like?
The Lord does not leave us to guess, and the answer comes from a place we might not expect: the book of Leviticus. In Leviticus 6:1-7, we find a law that describes what a person is to do when caught sinning against another. In this case, the guilty party has defrauded someone by means of lying, and the repentance the Lord requires is that they confess their wrong (cf. 5:5 and Matt 5:23-24), repay what they have stolen, and then add 20% on top for damages. In other words, true repentance is characterized by three actions:
- Acknowledging and repenting of your sin to the person you have wronged.
- Correcting the wrong where possible.
- Paying damages on top.
What does this type of repentance look like in the case of public slander? First, it means directly contacting the person you have slandered, confessing your wrong and asking forgiveness. The more directly we know the person we have slandered, the more personally we should reach out to them. Someone in our immediate circle deserves a phone call or face to face conversation. In other cases, where we might not have ever met the person, it may be okay to send an email. The key is that the slanderer repents to the person he or she wronged.
Second, we must correct the wrong by setting the record straight in as public a way as our original act of slander. In the case of slander done on social media, this does not mean simply taking down the blogpost or tweet.