How Should You Respond If You’re Accused of Being Defensive?

A Little Lesson

How do you respond to someone who tells you that you’re being too defensive? Is it wrong to defend yourself when you believe yourself to be innocent? Learn more in this episode of Little Lessons.

man ready to defend

The following excerpt is taken from a transcript of the video above.

Have you ever been accused of being defensive? Well, I know that I certainly have. And I’ve, consequently, pondered what would be the best way to respond to that accusation? Because, at the time, I didn’t have much of a response. And let me preface all this by saying that, can we all agree that bad people look for good people to take advantage of?

When you’re a sincere, sympathetic, kind-hearted person people, with less than pure motives, look for those kinds of people to take advantage of because they’re likely to be trusting and even gullible. And so, anyone who’s been a trusting, kind, compassionate person eventually finds themselves being taken advantage of. Sure, it’s absolutely inevitable because the world is full of people who have less than pure motives, and who are very self-centered, and their whole goal is to get what they can get for themselves. They’re all about themselves.

So, you’ll find yourself, then eventually, in conflict. And nice people hate conflict because they just want to get along. They love serving others. They love loving others. And when it suddenly dawns on them that they’re being taken advantage of, or misused, or abused in some way, shape, or form, that’s when conflict, if it hasn’t already started, is going to escalate because that good person, that sincere person values the relationship. And they’re going to try to work it out, and make it work. And they’ll be conciliatory, and understanding, and listening and so forth. Try to understand the perspective of the person with whom they’re in conflict.

Well, people who are bad have excuses, and they always try to deflect the blame away from themselves to the good person whom they’re trying to take advantage of. So, this is the stuff of life. And sooner or later, you’re probably going to be accused of being defensive because you are. They’re making accusations against you, and you’re defending yourself. They’re misstating things, they’re twisting the truth, or they’re misrepresenting the facts. And so, you, at your own defense, say things that are defensive. And then, they come up with a line, “Well, you’re so defensive.” Well, that’s a form of, what is known as, gaslighting.

Now, I don’t know if you’ve ever heard that terminology before. Gaslighting, it is derived from a play back in the 1930s, a British play. And that was adapted from a movie back in the 1940s, I think, by the title Gaslighting. And there was a bad guy, and there was a good guy. The good guy was a woman. And the bad guy and the good guy, the bad man and the good woman were married. And he was selfish. He really didn’t care about her. And he was trying to take advantage of her. And so, he had this plot to try to make her doubt her perceptions, to drive her insane. And then to, ultimately, have her committed to an insane asylum.

And he did that, in part, by turning down the gas lights. But that was back in the days of when people lit their homes through gas and so forth. And so, he turned them down, and his wife would say, “It seems like the gas, the lights are dimmer than they were before.” And he goes, “No, they’re not. They’re just bright as ever been. Something’s wrong with you. You’re the problem. Your perceptions are wrong.” And he had other means, and methods to, ultimately, drive her insane because she doubted herself. And he did it by psychologically manipulating her.

When someone accuses you of being defensive that’s a form of gaslighting because they’re simply saying to you, “Well, the problem is you. That’s the problem. See, you’re defensive.” But the truth is, all you’re doing is responding to accusations that are made against you. And you don’t agree with them, you don’t believe them.

Now, let me back up just one second. We ought to be humble, and listen carefully and weigh accusations that are made against us. And maybe even seek counsel to see if there’s an agreement. Outside counsel, someone who’s a third-party, who has nothing to gain or lose. So, I’m not saying that you should defend yourself under every circumstance. If you’re a guilty, you should say, “I’m guilty. You’re right. I was wrong. Forgive me.” But gaslighting is a technique people use when they have nothing substantive to actually accuse you of any longer. And so, now, they’re resorting to attacking you, and ad hominem attack. “There’s something wrong with you. You’re defensive.” Well, that has no substance at all, as an argument because you’re simply responding, counteracting their lies, their misperceptions with truth. Again, if you have the truth on your side, if you have the facts on your side.

So, the person who has to resort to such an argument, “You’re being defensive,” they’ve lost the argument. And that might be an appropriate thing to say to them right there. “Well, that’s not a substantive argument whatsoever. You’re making an accusation and it’s just adding to the accusations you made, but there’s no substance to it whatsoever. Of course, I’m defending myself, you’re accusing me. What do you want me to do?”

Now, some people will even say, I had a gas-lighter do this to me, and he said, “Well, Jesus never defended himself.” Well, that’s nonsense. That’s a lie. Jesus defended himself many, many, many times. Read the Bible, read the Gospels. I’m just reading in my private devotions here, which kind of prompted me to do this little lesson, the Book of Job. And what does Job, but a book in which Job defends himself against the accusations of three, actually four in the end, people who are demanding that he confess his sin? And he throughout all of it, he maintains his innocence. And near the end, he has the boldness to even cite specific examples of what they’ve accused him of, he’s not guilty of it. So, is it wrong to defend yourself? Well, Job, the man whom God considered to be the most righteous person on the face of the Earth, defended himself in a lengthily discourse.

I’ve had people say to me, “Oh, but you’ve gone on for so long in your defense.” Is there a rule against that? You respond to accusations. If they give 10 accusations, you give 10 responses. Pretty simple. So, Job is a long book. Job spent a lot of time defending himself. And because he knew the truth. He knew that he was not the flagrant sinner that his friends were saying that he was. And people who are Godly, they defend their reputation because their reputation means a lot to them. And the Bible says that, “A good reputation is to be desired above silver and gold.” Bad people really don’t care about their reputation. All they care about is themselves.

All right so, to answer the question that I posed at the beginning of this Little Lesson, how should you respond when someone accuses you of being defensive? You can just say that, “There’s no substance to that whatsoever. Of course, I’m defending myself. You’re accusing me wrongly. If that’s your best argument, I guess, the argument’s over because you just lost.”

Until next time, may the Lord bless you.