Tuesday, January 8, 2008

The Backbiting Tongue

Here is an excerpt from a wonderful book called The Backbiting Tongue by Fr Belet, originally published in 1870.
Therefore, what is backbiting or detraction?
Here is the definition given by Saint Thomas Aquinas: "Backbiting is the denigration of a neighbor's reputation by means of secret words." Indeed, a person may wound someone by word in two ways: openly and to his face (that is, by insulting him); and secretly, when he is absent-- and that is backbiting.
Palladius relates that someone once asked Saint Anthony, "What is backbiting?" and the saint replied, "It is every sort of wicked word we dare not speak in front of the person about whom we are talking."

This is truly the nature of backbiters. They cannot do physical harm to those who are absent, so they strike at them with their tongue. Saint Thomas Aquinas says, "Destroying a person's reputation is a very serious wrong." And Saint Bernard declares, "Backbiting is a great vice, a great sin, a great crime."


Anonymous said...

It seems to be a favorite pasttime of this current culture. I believe it is the way many people neutralize the feelings of envy and competitiveness they feel toward others which eats away at them.

papabear said...

I don't know if this sin is more popular now than in the past, since it seems to have always been a great temptation for people living in society. But what we don't get know, as we did in Catholic societies, is the injunction against the sin, or education that it is wrong.

And of course we need to make a proper distinction between public sin (that ought to be criticized), and sin that has become public knowledge.

Especially when we talk about the sins of the famous not because their actions should be condemned, but solely to heap scorn on their person...

Anonymous said...

papabear,I think that phrase...to heap scorn on someone...hits the nail on the head in describing people's motives.

elena maria vidal said...

Yes, he hit the nail on the head!