Monday, January 24, 2011

The Most Precious Possession

At the First Thoughts Blog, David Mills notes that today is the feast day of St. Francis de Sales. St. Francis is the patron of writers and journalists and Mills collects some of his advice to those in the profession that are especially relevant:

He who unjustly takes away his neighbour’s good name is guilty of sin, and is bound to make reparation, according to the nature of his evil speaking; since no man can enter into Heaven cumbered with stolen goods, and of all worldly possessions the most precious is a good name. Slander is a kind of murder; for we all have three lives—a spiritual life, which depends upon the Grace of God; a bodily life, depending on the soul; and a civil life, consisting in a good reputation. Sin deprives us of the first, death of the second, and slander of the third.

But the slanderer commits three several murders with his idle tongue: he destroys his own soul and that of him who hearkens, as well as causing civil death to the object of his slander; for, as S. Bernard says, the Devil has possession both of the slanderer and of those who listen to him, of the tongue of the one, the ear of the other. And David says of slanderers, “They have sharpened their tongues like a serpent; adders’ poison is under their lips.” . . .

My daughter, I entreat you never speak evil of any, either directly or indirectly; beware of ever unjustly imputing sins or faults to your neighbour, of needlessly disclosing his real faults, of exaggerating such as are overt, of attributing wrong motives to good actions, of denying the good that you know to exist in another, of maliciously concealing it, or depreciating it in conversation. In all and each of these ways you grievously offend God, although the worst is false accusation, or denying the truth to your neighbour’s damage, since therein you combine his harm with falsehood.

Words of wisdom that are most appropriate for writers and journalists, but also applicable for the rest of us as well.