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Accusing and Excusing Ourselves

2 min • Digitized on February 4, 2022

From The Spirit of St. Francis de Sales, page 159
By His friend, Jean Pierre Camus, Bishop of Belley


Although to excuse ourselves for our faults is in many circumstances blameworthy, whilst in general to accuse ourselves of them is laudable, still when self-accusation is carried too far, it is apt to run into affectation, making us wish to pass for something different from what we really are, or, with scrupulosity, making us persuade ourselves that we are what we describe ourselves to be.

It is true that the just man is his own accuser and that, knowing his faults, he declares them simply, in order to be cured of them by wholesome corrections. It is also true that it is a bad thing to excuse oneself, an excuse being always worse than the fault committed, inasmuch as it shows that we think we were right in committing the fault; a persuasion which is contrary to truth.

If our first parents had not excused themselves, the man throwing the blame on the woman, the woman on the serpent, and if, on the contrary, confessing their sin, they had repented, they would have crushed the serpent while in the act of wounding them, and God, who had invited them to this repentance by His loving rebuke, Adam, where art thou? would in His mercy, have surely pardoned them.

This was what made David pray that God would set a watch before his mouth, and on his lips, lest he should be led to utter evil words. By evil words he means excuses which we invent to cover our sins. [Psalm cxl. 3, 4.]

Our Blessed Father advises us as follows:

Be just, and, without mature consideration, neither excuse nor accuse your poor soul, lest if you excuse it when you should not, you make it insolent, and if you accuse it lightly [i.e. rashly], you discourage it and make it cowardly. Walk simply and you will walk securely.

I once heard him utter these striking words:

He who excuses himself unjustly, and affectedly, accuses himself openly and truly; and he who accuses himself simply and humbly, deserves to be excused kindly and to be pardoned lovingly.

There is a confession which brings confusion, and another which brings glory. Confession, says St. Ambrose, is the true medicine for sin to him who repents of wrong doing.

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