From Sacred Scripture
Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; love one another with brotherly affection; outdo one another in showing honor. Never flag in zeal, be aglow with the Spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in your hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.
Contribute to the needs of the saints, practice hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; never be conceited. Repay no one evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends upon you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God; for it is written, "Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord." No, "if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals upon his head." Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
Owe no one anything, except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law. ... Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.
Let us conduct ourselves becomingly as in the day, not in reveling and drunkenness, not in debauchery and licentiousness, not in quarreling and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.
Romans 14:13, 15, 17-19
Let us no more pass judgment on one another, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother. … If your brother is being injured by what you eat, you are no longer walking in love. … Do not let your good be spoken of as evil. For the kingdom of God is not food and drink but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit; he who thus serves Christ is acceptable to God and approved by men. Let us then pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding.
Romans 15:1-3, 5
We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves; let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to edify him. For Christ did not please himself; but, as it is written, "The reproaches of those who reproached thee fell on me." … May the God of steadfastness and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another.
1Corinthians 13: 4-7, 13
Love is patient and kind; love is not jealous or boastful; it is not arrogant or rude. Love does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. ... So faith, hope, love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.
He said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." I will all the more gladly boast of my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities; for when I am weak, then I am strong.
Galatians 5: 14-15, 26
The whole law is fulfilled in one word, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." But if you bite and devour one another take heed that you are not consumed by one another. ... Let us have no self-conceit, no provoking of one another, no envy of one another.
Now the works of the flesh are plain: fornication, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, anger, selfishness, dissension, party spirit, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and the like. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions.
Let us not grow weary in well-doing, for in due season we shall reap, if we do not lose heart. So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all men, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.
Speak the truth in love.
Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger
Ephesians 4:29, 31-32
Let no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for edifying, as fits the occasion, that it may impart grace to those who hear. … Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, with all malice, and be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.
Ephesians 4:32 – 5:2
Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.
Philippians 2:2-4, 14-15
Complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfishness or conceit, but in humility count others better than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others…. Do all things without grumbling or questioning, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world.
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let all men know your forbearance. The Lord is at hand. Have no anxiety about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, will keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.
I (do not) complain of want; for I have learned, in whatever state I am, to be content. I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound; in any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and want.
Lead a life worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God. May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, giving thanks to the Father … He has delivered us from the dominion of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son.
Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassion, kindness, lowliness, meekness, and patience, forbearing one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.
And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teach and admonish one another in all wisdom, and sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
We exhort you, brethren, to [love your neighbour] more and more, to aspire to live quietly, to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands … so that you may command the respect of outsiders, and be dependent on nobody.
Be at peace among yourselves. And we exhort you, brethren, admonish the idlers, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all. See that none of you repays evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to all. Rejoice always, pray constantly, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
If any one will not work, let him not eat. For we hear that some of you are living in idleness, mere busybodies, not doing any work. Now such persons we command and exhort in the Lord Jesus Christ to do their work in quietness and to earn their own living. Brethren, do not be weary in well-doing.
2Timothy 2:14b, 16, 22-24
Avoid disputing about words, which does no good, but only ruins the hearers. … Avoid such godless chatter, for it will lead people into more and more ungodliness … Aim at righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call upon the Lord from a pure heart. Have nothing to do with stupid, senseless controversies; you know that they breed quarrels. And the Lord's servant must not be quarrelsome but kindly to every one, an apt teacher, forbearing.
Remember your leaders ... consider the outcome of their life, and imitate their faith.
Jesus also suffered outside the gate in order to sanctify the people through his own blood. Therefore let us go forth to him outside the camp and bear the abuse he endured. For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city which is to come. Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name.
Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere love of the brethren, love one another earnestly from the heart.
Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. He committed no sin; no guile was found on his lips. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten; but he trusted to him who judges justly.
Have unity of spirit, sympathy, love of the brethren, a tender heart and a humble mind. Do not return evil for evil or reviling for reviling; but on the contrary bless, for to this you have been called, that you may obtain a blessing. For "He that would love life
and see good days, let him keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking guile; let him turn away from evil and do right; let him seek peace and pursue it.
Above all hold unfailing your love for one another, since love covers a multitude of sins. Practice hospitality ungrudgingly to one another. As each has received a gift, employ it for one another, as good stewards of God's varied grace … in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ.
Rejoice in so far as you share Christ's sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. If you are reproached for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the spirit of glory and of God rests upon you.
Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for "God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble." Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that in due time he may exalt you.
Cast all your anxieties on him, for he cares about you. Be sober, be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking some one to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experience of suffering is required of your brotherhood throughout the world. And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, establish, and strengthen you.
Count it all joy, my brethren, when you meet various trials, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. … If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives to all men generously and without reproaching, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting
James 1:19-20, 22
Let every man be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger, for the anger of man does not work the righteousness of God. … But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.
If any one thinks he is religious, and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this man's religion is vain.
James 2:1-5, 8-9
My brethren, show no partiality as you hold the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory. For if a man with gold rings and in fine clothing comes into your assembly, and a poor man in shabby clothing also comes in, and you pay attention to the one who wears the fine clothing and say, "Have a seat here, please," while you say to the poor man, "Stand there," or, "Sit at my feet," have you not made distinctions among yourselves, and become judges with evil thoughts? Listen, my beloved brethren. Has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which he has promised to those who love him? ... If you really fulfil the royal law, according to the scripture, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself," you do well. But if you show partiality, you commit sin, and are convicted by the law as transgressors.
Speak and so act as those who are to be judged under the law of liberty. For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy; yet mercy triumphs over judgment.
What does it profit, my brethren, if a man says he has faith but has not works? Can his faith save him? If a brother or sister is ill-clad and in lack of daily food, and one of you says to them, "Go in peace, be warmed and filled," without giving them the things needed for the body, what does it profit? So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead.
The wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, without uncertainty or insincerity. And the harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.
Do not speak evil against one another, brethren. He that speaks evil against a brother or judges his brother, speaks evil against the law and judges the law.
Be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand. Do not grumble, brethren, against one another, that you may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing at the doors. As an example of suffering and patience, brethren, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. Behold, we call those happy who were steadfast. You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful.
And by this we may be sure that we know him, if we keep his commandments. … By this we may be sure that we are in him: he who says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.
No man has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.
From St. Francis de Sales, Introduction to the Devout Life, Rockford: Tan Books and Publishers.
1. Imitating the Crucified Christ. Remember that Our Lord saved us by suffering and enduring injustices, contradictions, and afflictions. ... [so] too we have to merit our salvation by suffering and enduring contradictions, injustices, and afflictions with the greatest possible gentleness. (120)
A. [Thus], frequently contemplate Jesus Crucified, naked, calumniated, overcome with sadness and afflictions, and consider:
(a) How your sufferings are in now way comparable to His ... Never will you suffer for Him what He has suffered for you.
(b) The sufferings of the martyrs; and
(c) The sufferings of so many unfortunate people.
Remind yourself that your pains bear no comparison with theirs. (125)
2. Responding to Accusations.
A. If you are correctly accused of some fault, be humble and recognize that you deserve the reproaches made against you.
B. But if you are wrongly accused:
a. Deny your culpability firmly; you owe this to the truth as well as to the edification of your neighbour. b. But if, after having rendered justice to the truth, the accusation persists, be neither troubled nor insistent; after having done your duty regarding the truth, do it now regarding humility, so that you neglect neither the care that you ought to have for your reputation, nor the love that you ought to have for peace, gentleness of heart, and humility. (122)
3. Complaining about and Accepting Wrongs. Complain as little as possible about the wrongs (122) done to you because, ordinarily, he who complains sins, and this all the more since self-love always assesses injustices to be greater than they actually are.
A. (a) Above all, do not complain to those who are easily indignant and quick to think evil.
B. If you must speak about these wrongs – either to remedy the offense or to satisfy your peace of mind – confide in peace-loving and God-loving people. Otherwise, instead of giving you comfort, they will unsettle you all the more; and instead of excising the thorn pricking you, they will plunge it ever more deeply.
4. Complaining about and Accepting Evil.
A. (a) The truly patient person neither complains about an evil he is suffering nor looks for anyone’s pity.
(b) He speaks of it frankly, simply, truthfully, without whining, without attempting to make himself pass for something greater than he is in reality.
(c) If he receives sympathy, he accepts it simply. (123)
0. Vainglory. Vainglory is the glory that we give ourselves: either (a) for what is not really in us, or (b) for what is in fact in us but not owing to anything we did, or (c) for what is in us and owing to us but which does not deserve to be the cause of a boast. / (126)
1. True Greatness. All that is needed to know if a man is truly wise, learned, generous, and noble, is to see if his gifts tend to humility, modesty, and consideration. Then they are indeed true gifts. But if they ... seek to be visible, they are less authentic (127) to the extent that they are more on display.
2. Intellectual Pride. Learning is hardly honourable when it degenerates into conceit and pedantry. [Some] expect to be honoured and respected by everyone because of a little learning, as if everyone ought to enrol in their school and have them for teachers. (Such are called pedants). / All such is vain in the extreme, stupid, and quite inappropriate, and any glory coming from such nonsense is vain, stupid, and quite frivolous.
3. Temptation of Honours. If we are (a) too jealous about rank, position, and titles ... we render them vile and contemptible, [and] altogether ugly when [they are] (b) demanded, sought after, and insisted upon. However, those who (c) love them too dearly and who seek them too eagerly, deserve only censure and reproof.
A. The pursuit and love of virtue is the beginning of our becoming virtuous, while the pursuit and (128) love of honours is the beginning of our becoming quite despicable.
4. Accepting Honours.
(a) [Honours] give a nice feeling to those who are aware of them from afar and in passing, without becoming attached to them or valuing them too highly.
(b) Certainly, everyone ought to take his rightful place, but humbly, simply, and without fanfare.
(c) Those in pursuit of virtue accept the rank and the honours due them, but only on the condition that they do not cost them too much care and attention and do not burden them with trouble, unrest, disputes, and struggles. (129)
0. Humility perfects us with respect to God, and meekness or gentleness with respect to our neighbour.
Charity reaches perfection when it is simultaneously patient, gentle, and good. (147)
1. True and False Gentleness and Humility. Be careful that ... gentleness and humility [are] always truly in your heart, because one of the devil’s greatest tricks is to have us exhibit only (147) the outward appearances of these two virtues.
A. This can be seen to be the case when, in spite of their appearance of gentleness and humility, they become irritated and annoyed at the slightest contradictory word or the least offense.
B. (Y) When humility and gentleness are genuine, they keep us from the “swelling” in the heart which injuries and maliciousness can cause. (N) If, however, when stung and bitten by slanders we become proud, “swollen”, and irritated, it is because our humility and our gentleness are not true and sincere, but false and illusory. (148)
0. This poor life is but a journey toward the blessed life, and we are not to become angry with each other on the way. (148) Let us walk on the way with our brothers and companions gently, peacefully, and amiably.
1. Resist All Anger. If possible, never become angry; never open the door of your heart to anger. Did not St. James say that man’s anger never effects God’s judgment?
2. Correction and Rebuking must be Purified of All Anger. It is important, however, to resist evil and to correct the faults of those placed in our care, and (148) this must be done constantly and courageously, but gently and peacefully. (149)
A. A correction made with passion and anger is never as well-accepted – even when it is reasonable – as one which has no other origin than reason alone.
B. Why? Because man is endowed with reason and submits to passion only when forced to do so by some form of tyranny. Given that, when reason is accompanied by passion, it is considered odious and its otherwise just domination is debased by the contact with tyranny.
C. (Y) When reason rules and exercises its chastisements, corrections, and reprimands peaceably, even if it does so severely, everyone loves and approves it. (N) But when it is accompanied by anger and wrath ... it is assessed as more frightening than amiable and always finds itself wounded and weakened by them.
3. Vigilance Against Anger. It is ... simply to refuse all entry to anger – however just – rather than give access to it, however little it may be.
A. Once you allow it entrance, it is very difficult to make it leave. It enters as a little shoot, but before you (149) know it, it is as big as a stump!
B. And the longer it remains, the more it runs the risk of becoming hatred, and then there is almost no way of undoing it.
4. Justifying One’s Anger. [Anger] feeds itself upon false convictions inasmuch as every angry man believes his anger to be just.
5. Repulsing Anger. If, because of our weak and imperfect nature, we have let ourselves be surprised by anger, we must quickly repulse it and not negotiate with it, because no matter how little time we give to it, it makes itself mistress of the place. How do we repulse it?
A. As soon as you are aware of its first attacks, gather your forces, rapidly but not harshly, gently but seriously. ... It can also happen that in our desire to cool our anger with too much violence we disturb our heart more than we should, and thus agitated, it is no longer its own master.
B. After this peaceful effort, ask for the Lord’s help. ... Pray, (150) therefore, but – as with everything that we do against this evil – pray gently, peacefully, and without violence.
6. Reparation when Succumbing to Anger. As soon as you perceive that you have succumbed to anger, repair your fault by an act of gentleness directed promptly toward the person with whom you are irritated. ... Repair it immediately by some act of gentleness. Fresh wounds are always easier to heal.
8. Building up Resistance to Anger. When you are calm and have no reason to be irritated, store up a good provision of gentleness and patience; speak and act as calmly as possible.
9. Consistency and Integrity. Remember that you must not only have a kind word for your neighbour and for strangers, but also for the people with whom you live and your closest friends. Those who are angels abroad but devils at home fail seriously in this respect. (151)
10. Conclusion: Better No Anger than Moderate Anger. It is therefore better to discipline oneself to live without anger than to attempt to use it moderately and wisely. (149)
V. Appropriate Conversation.
1. Avoiding Careless Words. Be on guard against every careless word.
A. Even if said with no evil intention, it can be taken badly by those who hear it.
2. Christian Manner of Speech. Speak only frank, (217) courteous, pure words. (218) Let your speech be mind, candid, sincere, frank, simple, and honest. (234)
3. Mockery (Sarcasm) Forbidden. Mockery must have no place in your conversation. ... The greatest way to offend our neighbour through speech is to mock him.
(ex) Why? Because every other offense can be given while still having a certain measure of esteem for the one offended, whereas one never mocks without somewhat despising the one mocked. (218)
4. Teasing Commendable. “Pleasant conversation” ... permits us to entertain ourselves with the friendly and pleasant enjoyment we take in the amusing little situations which human imperfections provide us with from time to time. Teasing, accompanied by a few gentle words, causes simple, friendly, and open laughter. Only we must be careful never to go beyond the bounds of well-bred pleasantry to cruel mockery. (218)
5. Disagreements. (Y) Unless there is sin or harm to speak against, it is preferable to avoid disputes and quarrels by not contradicting others. (N) But, if it is necessary to make known your opinion, do so gently and with utmost tact so as not to arouse anger, for nothing is gained by harshness.
5. Moderation of Words. “To speak little” – so highly recommended by wise men – does not consist in uttering few words, but in not speaking useless words. It is not their quantity but their quality that counts. (235)
VI. Judging Rashly.
1. Three Reasons Man’s Judgments are Rash. (a) The judgments of men are always rash, because men are not judges of one another and when they judge, they usurp Our Lord’s office. (b) Such judgments are always rash because the principal malice of sin depends upon the intention of the heart – and that remains secret. (c) They are rash too because everyone has enough to do in judging himself without undertaking the judgment of his neighbour.
2. Seven Forms or Manifestations of Rash Judgments. Rash judgments must be corrected according to (220) its cause.
A. Some temperaments are naturally bitter and sour, and they render bitter and sour anything they receive ... It is dangerous because it introduces and causes both rash judgment and backbiting to reign in the soul. (221)
B. Others are prone to rash judgment ... through pride, persuaded that they elevate themselves to the extent that they tear others down. Arrogant, presumptuous spirits, they so admire and esteem themselves that they consider the rest of humanity quite inferior. (221)
C. Some do not possess this obvious pride, but instead take a certain self-satisfaction in discovering evil in another in order subtly to relish, and cause to be relished by others, the contrary good with which they deem themselves endowed. This self-satisfaction is so subtle, so nearly imperceptible, that – unless one has good eyesight – he cannot perceive it, and even those who are afflicted by it do not see it unless it is brought to their attention. (221)
D. To flatter and to excuse themselves and to lessen their own remorse of conscience, some blithely accuse others of being tainted by the very vice (221) they practice, or by some other vice equally serious. They believe that the greater the number of those guilty, the less blameable are they in their sin. (222)
E. Some people are prone to rash judgment for the sole pleasure of speaking and philosophizing about morals and characters, somewhat like a mental game, and if, unhappily, their judgments prove to be correct, their audacity and their preference for this exercise increase so greatly that one can correct them only with difficulty. (222)
F. Others judge everything according to their own passions, judging good what they love, and evil what they hate – except in certain astonishing circumstances ... where their excessive love compels them to judge as bad what they love ([this is] jealousy). (222)
G. Finally there remain fear, ambition, and other weaknesses of spirit which frequently contribute to arousing suspicions and rash judgments. (222)
3. Remedy for Rash Judgment. Those absorbed with pride, envy, ambition, and hatred, and who no longer see anything that is not blameable, out to drink the sacred wine of charity, which will calm them and deliver them from th[ese] evil dispositions. (222) Everything appears yellow to the jaundiced, and this sin is a spiritual jaundice, which makes everything seem evil to the eyes of those tainted by it. ... If their heart is kind, their judgments will be kind; if it is charitable, their judgments will be charitable.
A. Charity fears to encounter evil; with all the more reason it does not look for it; and when it encounters it, it turns away from it and strives to ignore it. At first noise that it hears it shuts its eyes and, by a holy simplicity, believes that it is not evil, but only has the appearance of evil. And if it is forced to recognize it, it strives to forget it as quickly as possible. (223)
B. Judge your neighbour as charitably as possible.
a. If an action has a hundred faces, you (223) must look at the one that is most favourable to the neighbour. (224)
b. When the just man is unable to excuse either the deed or the intention of one whom he knows otherwise to be a good person, he does not judge it; but, removing such a thought from his mind, leaves its judgment to God. (224)
c. Our Saviour on the Cross could not excuse the sin of those who tortured Him, but by attributing it to ignorance, He at least lessened its malice. When we are unable to excuse the sin, let us render it worthy of compassion by attributing its cause to what is most tolerable, such as ignorance or weakness. (224)
C. But ... can one never judge his neighbour then? Never. (225)
a. To see or to know something, however, is not to pass judgment on it. Judgment presupposes some amount of obscurity, real or apparent, which must be clarified. (225)
b. There is no sin in having doubts about the conduct of a neighbour, for we are not forbidden to doubt, but to judge. It is permitted to doubt or suspect in the strict sense and as far as proof and arguments compel us to do so. Otherwise, suspicion itself becomes rash. (225)
D. Do not go out in search (225) of things concealed among the cloudy actions of a neighbour or examine the lives of others, [but rather], to avoid encountering them, keep recollected in [your]selves and work for [your] own improvement.
E. I make exception, naturally, for those in charge of others, whether in the family or in the community, since a part of their duty consists in checking to see that others are doing their duty.
a. Let them, then, perform this duty with love, and having done so, let them be content with watching over themselves.
1. Slander Forbidden. Never slander anyone, either directly or indirectly. (228)
A. Refrain from imputing imaginary faults to your neighbour, from revealing those which are secret, and from exaggerating those which are obvious. (228)
B. Be on your guard as well against interpreting good actions as evil. Do not deny the good that you know to be true about someone by falsifying it maliciously or by lessening it. (228)
C. (a) Do not generalize from a particular instance. ... In order to be able to attribute a vice or a virtue to someone, that person must have practiced one or the other habitually and with some progress in it. ... And even if he practiced (229) these vices over a long period, you would still risk accusing him falsely by treating him as if he were still vicious. (230) (b) God’s goodness is so great that a single instant is sufficient to obtain the grace of conversion. Therefore, what right do we have to say that a man who yesterday was a sinner is still one today? Yesterday does not permit us to judge today, nor today to judge yesterday; only the last day will judge all days. We can never say that someone is vicious without danger of falsifying. (231) (c) In a situation where it is necessary to speak, we can say that this man once committed such and such a reprehensible act, or that once he led a bad life, or that he is now living a bad life. But that does not allow anyone to draw conclusions from yesterday for today, or from today for yesterday, and still less for tomorrow. (230)
2. Reprehensible Forms of Slander.
A. There are some who, before actually slandering someone, say something good about him. These are the most subtle and venomous of slanderers. (228)
B. But the cruellest slander is that combined with mockery. Slander ... is registered more ferociously in the hearer’s mind when combined with some witty or clever word. (229)
3. Opposite Extreme: Praising the Vice. If we must be extremely careful not to slander our neighbour, we must also be on our guard against the contrary excess and begin to praise the vice in order to avoid the slander! (230) In our attempt to eschew the vice of slander, we must not favour, flatter, or nourish other vices.
4. What and What Not to Say. In short, when speaking of my neighbour ... I [must] say neither too much nor too little. (232)
A. By promptly and frankly calling evil evil and by blaming things that are blameable, we work for God’s glory. (231) Neither must we fear denouncing the errors of avowed enemies of God and the Church. It is charity [to do so]. (232)
B. Under very precise circumstances, labelling as [evil] someone’s vices is justified if it seems useful to those about whom we are speaking or to those to whom we are speaking. ... Unless we think another occasion is more appropriate and less harmful to the one about whom we are speaking. (231)
C. And above all, while blaming the vice, I must as much as possible spare the person committing the vice. (232)
D. True, we can speak openly about public criminals whose crime is known by all. Yet, this too must be done with charity and compassion, with neither disdain nor presumption, nor as a pretext to take pleasure in another’s sin. (232)
E. Finally, we notice that everyone permits himself to judge and criticize rulers and to speak ill of entire nations according to his sympathies or (232) his antipathies. Do not fall into this failing, ... because it offends God and causes all kinds of quarrels. (233)
F. When I must speak up, I must do so in so balanced and just a way that I do not utter one word too many. (231)
6. Responding to the Slandering of Others. When you are in the presence of someone speaking ill of another:
(a) Begin as best you can to cast doubt on the accusation.
(b) If you cannot honestly do this, at least make excuses for his intention
(c) And if this too is impossible, show your compassion for the accused person and pass on to say something good about him if you are aware of any
(d) Bearing in mind – and discreetly reminding those present – that those who do not sin owe that solely to God’s grace. (233)
VIII. Being Fair and Just.
0. Hypocrisy. (a) We are human only because of our reason, and yet it is very rare to find people who are truly reasonable. Self-love frequently falsifies rationality and leads it into a thousand kinds of injustices. (249) (b) Judge for yourself whether or not what I am about to describe to you is unjust and unreasonable: We fault our neighbour for a trifle, but excuse ourselves for a major fault; We demand that justice be meted out in the house of another, but want mercy in our own; We wish people to take our remarks in the right light, but we are sensitive and prickly about what is said to us; (249) We readily complain about our neighbour, but are annoyed when he complains about us. (250) (c) In short, we have two hearts: one that is gentle, gracious, and courteous toward ourself; the other that is hard, severe, and rigorous toward our neighbour. We have two scales: one for weighing our interests to our advantage; the other for weighing those of our neighbour to his disadvantage.
1. Be just in all your actions, therefore, Philothea; (250) always put yourself in your neighbour’s place, and put your neighbour in yours, and then you will judge fairly.
2. Live generously, nobly, courteously, with a royal, just, and rational heart. Examine your heart often, to be assured that it is behaving toward your neighbour as you would want his to behave toward you. (251)
IX. Concerning Anxiety.
Anxiety Explained. The sadness we sometimes feel is nothing else than the sorrow that our spirit experiences from an evil that is contrary to our liking; exterior evil such as poverty, illness, disdain; interior evil such as ignorance, aridity, disgust, temptation. As soon as we sense this evil’s attack, we are displeased to have it and so are utterly saddened. We immediately seek a way to be rid of it, and up to that point we are right, because everyone naturally desires well-being and feels from what he thinks is evil.
Positive and Negative Responses. (Y) If it is the love of God which guides our steps, we shall seek the means for reaching the desired goal patiently and gently, humbly and tranquilly, placing our confidence more in Providence than in our own industry, cares, and efforts. (N) But if it is self-love which makes us search for our deliverance, we become agitated and hurry about as if it depended more on us than on God. I am not saying that we actually think this, but I am saying that we act as if we thought it. (300) And if we do not immediately experience some consolation, we experience anxiety and impatience. Anxiety and impatience do not provide solace for our pain, but aggravate it, leading us to a kind of breakdown in courage and strength because it seems that our pain has no possible remedy.
Dangers and Effects of Unchecked Anxiety. You see, Philothea, that this sadness, although justified at the beginning, engenders an anxiety which, in turn, engenders an extremely dangerous increase of sadness. And, after sin, this is the greatest evil that can befall us. Just as internal revolutions and troubles can cause the ruin of a state by weakening its capacity for resistance before the enemy, an anxious and troubled heart no longer has the strength to preserve the virtues acquired, nor the means to resist the assaults of the enemy, who then multiplies his efforts to fish in troubled waters. Therefore anxiety is born from the inordinate desire to be delivered from the harm we feel and to acquire the good we hope for; and yet there is nothing which increases this evil so much, and keeps the good so far removed! It is like birds which are caught in the hunters’ nets and which struggle in such a wild fashion to escape that they become more and more entangled.
Dealing with Anxiety. When you are pressured with the desire to be delivered from some evil, or to achieve some good:
A. Begin by putting your mind at peace; restore calm to your judgment and will, and then pursue your goal very gently and mildly, while taking the appropriate means in orderly fashion. (301). When I say “very gently” I do not mean to say negligently, but calmly and without agitation, trouble, or anxiety. If you fail to act thus, you will ruin everything and put yourself more than ever into a quandary.
B. Examine your conscience ... several times a day, but at least in the morning and evening, to see if you “have your soul in your hands” or if some passion or some anxiety has not snatched it away. Check to see if your heart is still under control, or if it has escaped from your hands to become ensnared in some disordered passion of love, hatred, envy, fear, uneasiness, or joy. And if it has gone astray, look for it and bring it back very gently into the presence of God. Restore your affections and your desires under His obedience, and your conduct under His divine will.
C. Those who fear to lose something precious hold on to it very tightly. Never permit your desires, however small and unimportant they may be, to disturb you, because following little desires, greater ones will find your heart still more inclined to trouble and confusion. When you feel anxiety coming, recommend yourself to God and, no matter how long it lasts, resolve to do nothing about what your desire (302) insists on until your mind has regained peace, unless, of course, it is a question of things which cannot be postponed. In that case, gently make the effort to moderate the current of your desires, and act according to reason and not passion.
D. If you can share your anxiety with your spiritual director or some trusted friend, calm will be restored more quickly, because confiding the heart’s troubles brings about the same effect to the soul as blood-letting to the body.
X. Sorrow or Spiritual Sadness.
1. Effects of Sorrow and Spiritual Sadness. Sorrow or spiritual sadness can be good or bad, depending on its effects. But in truth it has more bad than good effects. In my opinion, it has only two which are good, compassion and repentance; whereas, it has at least six that are bad: anxiety, sloth, wrath, jealousy, envy, and impatience. (304) Evil sorrow or sadness troubles the soul, plunges it into anxiety and inspires in it inordinate fears; (304) it turns it away from prayer and overwhelms its spirit, preventing it from making wholesome judgments or good resolutions, or from having the courage to carry them out. Just as winter despoils all earth’s beauty and numbs all creatures, spiritual sadness casts out all sweetness from the soul and renders it almost completely disabled and powerless in its faculties. (305)
2. Satan’s Use of Sorrow and Spiritual Sadness. The devil uses sorrow to tempt good people. Just as he urges wicked people to find joy in sin, he also tries to make good people sad, even over their virtuous good works. Just as he can drag people to evil only by making it seem good, so he can deter people from good only by making it seem disagreeable. Because he himself is sad, and will be so eternally, the devil would like everyone else to be sad too. (304)
3. Remedies for Sorrow and Spiritual Sadness. Philothea, if you ever happen to suffer from this sadness, use the following remedies:
 Pray. Prayer is the sovereign remedy; it elevates the soul toward God, who is our joy and consolation. Pray, therefore, with confidence and love.
 Vigorously oppose any inclinations to sadness that you experience. Even though it may seem that you are doing everything very coldly, sadly, and in a cowardly manner, do them nonetheless. The devil’s intention is to discourage you with this sadness from doing good deeds. If he sees that you are doing them, even though without joy (which makes doing them even more meritorious), he will cease bothering you.
 Sing., if you wish, some hymn or song.
 Vary your occupations., as a distraction from what preoccupies you.
 Force yourself to perform some exterior acts of fervor. [Do this] even if you do so without relish. For example, embrace the crucifix, or speak to God in words of confidence and love.
 Do penance., but do so in moderation, so that (305) it does not overwhelm you further.
 Receive Holy Communion as often as possible., because the Bread of Life strengthens the heart and rejoices the spirit.
 Open your conscience humbly to your confessor., and reveal both the sentiments and suggestions which stem from your sadness. Seek the companionship of holy people.
 Finally, put yourself into God’s hands. Patiently accept this trial as a punishment for past vain joys; and never doubt that, after testing you, God will deliver you from this evil.
The Maxims of St. Alphonsus Liguori
A. [Before posting, ask yourself if you have recently been doing some if not all of the following]:
1. To desire ardently to increase in the love of Jesus Christ.
2. Often to make acts of love towards Jesus Christ. Immediately on [beginning to write, read, or post on a blog] to make an act of love, seeking always to unite your own will to the will of Jesus Christ.
4. Always to ask Jesus Christ for his love.
9. Often to speak of the love of Jesus Christ.
23. To pray as much as possible.
3. Often to meditate on his Passion.
14. To pray always for sinners and for the souls in purgatory.
5. To communicate often, and many times in the day to make spiritual Communions.
6. Often to visit the Most Holy Sacrament.
24. To practice all the mortifications that obedience permits.
25. To do all your spiritual exercises as if it were for the last time.
B. [Before posting, make sure you are abiding by most if not all of the following in your life and in your posts]:
39. Always to speak with mildness and in a low tone.
46. To humble yourself even towards inferiors.
47. Not to excuse yourself when you are reproved.
48. Not to defend yourself when found fault with.
35. To do good to those who do evil.
36. To speak well of all, and to excuse the intention when you cannot defend the action.
38. Neither to say nor to do anything that might vex [your neighbor]. And if you have been wanting in charity, to ask his pardon and speak kindly to him.
27. To suffer crosses patiently, saying, "Thus it pleases Jesus Christ."
40. To offer to Jesus Christ all the contempt and persecution that you meet with.
30. To drive away melancholy [i.e. gloom].
49. To be silent when you are disquieted [i.e. upset].