Monday, 16 March 2009
From the Devout Life today:
If anyone offend not in word, says St James, the same is a perfect man. Take great care not to speak any unseemly words; for though you may not say them with a bad intention, yet those that hear them may put a different construction upon them...
Whosoever unjustly takes away his neighbour's good name, besides the sin which he commits, is bound to make reparation, though differently, according to the different kinds of detraction; for no one can enter Heaven with the goods of others, and among all exterior goods, reputation is the best. Detraction is a kind of murder, for we have three lives: the spiritual, which consists in the grace of God; the corporal, which consists in its animating principal the soul; and the social, which consists in reputation; sin takes away the first from us, death the second, and detraction the third. But the detractor, by a single stroke of his tongue, ordinarily commits three murders: he kills his own soul and that of him who listens to him by a spiritual murder, and he takes away the social life of him whom he defames; for, as St Bernard says, he that defames another and he that listens to the defamation, both have the devil on them, but one has him on his tongue, and the other in his ear. David, speaking of detractors said: They have sharpened their tongues like a sepent. Now a serpent's tongue is forked and has two points, as Aristotle says: and such is the tongue of the detractor, which with one stroke stings and poisons the ear of the listener and the reputation of him that is spoken against.
I implore you, therefore, dearest Philothea, never to defame anyone either directly or indirectly: be very careful not to impute false crimes and sins to your neighbour, nor to make known those that are secret, nor to exxaggerate those that are manifest, nor to put a bad construction on a good work, nor to deny the good that you know in a person, nor to ignore it out of malice, nor to diminish it by words...
How hard it is to live up to these words from St Francis! Blogs can often be a great source of detraction, like any other public arena. St Francis does go on to say that we should not praise another person's faults in order to avoid detraction, nor should we keep silent about them if it would be beneficial for the person in question, or for those to whom we speak, to tell them (for example, to warn younger kids about hanging around with people who are up to no good). But how often is our talk about the faults of others really helpful to anyone? How often is it just our own pride that motivates us?