Advice against the sin of speaking evil of others

December 1, 2021 • 3 min

From The Sinner’s Guide, page 378
By Venerable Louis of Granada

Henceforward consider your neighbor’s character as a forbidden tree which you cannot touch.

Be no less slow in praising yourself than in censuring others, for the first indicates vanity and the second a want of charity.

Speak of the virtues of your neighbor, but be silent as to his faults. Let nothing that you say lead others to think that he is aught but a man of virtue and honor.

You will thus avoid innumerable sins and much remorse of conscience; you will be pleasing to God and men; and you will be respected by all as you respect others.

Put a bridle upon your tongue and learn to withhold an angry word when your heart is moved.

Believe me, there is no control more difficult and at the same time more noble and advantageous than that which a wise man exercises over his tongue.

Do not think yourself guiltless because you artfully mingle your malicious insinuations with words of praise. In this respect the detractor is like the surgeon, who soothingly passes his hand over the vein before piercing it with the lancet: “His words are smoother than oil, and the same are darts” [Ps. liv. 22.]

To refrain from speaking ill of others is always a virtue, but it is a still greater virtue to refrain from reviling those who have injured us; for the greater the injured feeling which prompts us to speak, the greater is our generosity in resisting it.

Nor is it sufficient not to indulge in detraction; you must also endeavor to avoid hearing it.

Be faithful to the counsel of the Holy Spirit, who tells you to “hedge in your ears with thorns, and hear not a wicked tongue.” [Ecclus. xxvii. 28.]

Observe that you are not told to hedge in your ears with cotton, but with thorns, that you may not only repel the words of the detractor, but that you may pierce him, and, by showing him a grave countenance, teach him how displeasing to you is his conduct.

“The north wind driveth away rain,” says Solomon, “as doth a sad countenance a backbiting tongue.” [Prov. xxv. 23.]

Impose silence, therefore, upon the detractor, if he be your inferior or one whom you can reprove without offence.

If you cannot do this, prudently endeavor to turn the conversation, or show by the severity of your countenance that his conversation is not pleasing to you.

Beware of hearing the detractor with smiling attention, for you thus encourage him, and consequently share in his guilt.

It is a grievous offence to set fire to a house, but it is scarcely less culpable to stand idly by witnessing its destruction instead of aiding in extinguishing the flames.

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