I don’t know how common this is, but I know this is something I have done, and this is also something I have seen and received from others a lot in my life.
What I refer to is false accusations that are rooted in projection.
What is projection?
Projection is when we take something from within ourselves and place it onto another person.
Projection accusations are when we take a fault of our own, or a bad experience we’ve had with others, and falsely accuse another person of holding that same fault.
These kinds of accusations almost always have to do with intentions of the heart.
We cannot really know what is going on inside of the heart and mind of another. If we think that we can see that which is unseen, how is it that we see it?
How can we see that which is unseen unless we are dealing with something we have “seen” before?
We might notice behavior patterns or other subtle cues that remind us of a painful event within our past, or maybe the patterns and cues speak to us subconsciously regarding a deep fault of our own.
When we see these patterns of behavior, a red flag goes off in our mind. We think we see exactly what is happening. Maybe we do. Maybe we don’t.
If we find ourselves making assumptions about the intentions or heart of another, the first thing we should do is question ourselves.
Why do I think I see this in the person I am accusing? What experience in my life am I drawing from in order to make this accusation?
Very often, the experiences we are drawing from are our own internal battles. What deep issues might we be hiding from ourselves—things about our nature that we hate but would rather not deal with? When we think we see that issue in another, it is possible that we are projecting our own self-hatred onto them.
Very often, the experiences we are drawing from are also found within our history with other harmful people. When we think we see a similar pattern, we lump a person in with the offenders—and sometimes wrongfully.
Sometimes, we do in-fact see hidden things within another because of our own experiences, but we should make sure that we do not assume that we are right.
We can seek Jesus for wisdom so that we can exercise appropriate caution, but unless we are certain we should not accuse people. If we are dealing with a person we are comfortable with, maybe we can relay our past experiences and fears with the understanding that we could be looking at the person through the lens of our experiences.
We can ask the person if the thing we assume is something they are in-fact struggling with, and mention that we think we recognize this issue because it is something we have dealt with ourselves. This puts us in a place of compassion and helps the person feel safe in addressing these hard things.
In any case, the way the person responds might be revealing, but even that can be tricky because people are complicated. For example, if a person responds with hostility this could be because they are guilty. This could also be because they are being falsely accused, and they have dealt with a lot of false accusations and criticism in the past, so they are sensitive to such a thing.
People are complicated—too complicated to lump people into categories we create because of our painful experiences or because of our own character flaws.
There is a balance here.
On one hand, we know that life teaches us so we should pay attention. On the other hand, we should appreciate the nearly endless variables that can make a person seem to be something they are not.
I know I do not like to be accused falsely, and in my experience many accuse through passive-aggressive jabs so that they can deny the attack later as a figment of my imagination, or they accuse me of being the one who is projecting when I question the perceived attack. Maybe that is true sometimes. Maybe I do expect others to see the worst in me, so sometimes I perceive attack when there is none.
This is a good example. As someone who’s history is riddled with false accusations and unfair criticisms, I am hyper aware of the ways in which a person could falsely accuse me, and I am hyper aware of passive aggressive remarks. Maybe I think I see attacks when in reality I am projecting my past experiences onto others.
What is the root of all of this? In the world of psychology, we are dealing with Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. I think a lot of people have CPTSD without realizing it. Abusive parenting causes this. The public-school system causes this. Media causes this. Our cultural surroundings cause this. There are so many causes, that it is no wonder we have a nation of fearful people.
Jesus rebukes the “fearful and unbelieving” but He is also compassionate. He knows the world we have grown up in. He knows the nation we have grown up in. If we turn to Him, He will free us from all unproductive fears. He will help us see the truth of our deepest struggles so that we can recognize projection accusations and learn how to stop.
This is still something I struggle with, and I wonder how much of my ministry is tainted by projection. However, I know that God ordains all things for good, so my life experiences do in-fact teach me. However, I need to be on-guard against projection accusations.
I think our nation at large needs to be on-guard against projection accusations. Maybe I see this because of experience or maybe because I still do this—but this problem seems to be everywhere. I will pray on this more, and I encourage any who reads this to do the same.
FYI, I am not a mental health professional. I have long found clinical psychology very interesting, so this is one thing that I study on my own time. Take the above accordingly.