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Step 10

ON DETRACTION.

1. I cannot believe any wise man will deny that hatred and the remembrance of injuries are the parents of a great deal of detraction. For this reason, having spoken of the father and the mother, it is now proper that we should treat of their offspring in their due order.

2. Detraction is the progeny of hatred. It is a subtle and imperceptible malady. It is a monstrous leech concealed in the very depth of the soul, and which sucks and draws away all the blood from charity. It is an interior dislike, which outwardly hides itself under the mask of fraternal affection. It is an imposthume of the heart, a weight which oppresses the conscience, and the ruin of purity.

3. There are some young women who commit sin without a blush, whilst others act more covertly, and with more reservation, yet commit far greater sins than the former. The same observation may be made with respect to the spiritual passions, of which the soul is so ashamed, is so filled with confusion by them, that it has not the courage to acknowledge itself guilty of them before men. Such are hypocrisy, malignity, sensible grief at an affront, the remembrance of injuries, and detraction, which proceeds from the malice of an ulcerated heart. For these vices are like deceitful women dressed in disguise, who would fain make you believe by their words that the object which they have in view is really different from that which they are contemplating in their mind.

4. Having heard persons detracting their neighbour, and having reprimanded them for their evil talk, these workers of iniquity replied to me in excuse that they did it through love of him whom they had spoken disadvantageously, and through the care which they had of his salvation. But I rejoined: “Mistrust, I beseech you, such love, such charity, if you do not wish to contradict the Royal Prophet, who said: ‘The man that in private detracted his neighbour, him did I persecute.’1 If, as you assert, you truly love your neighbour, offer up to God for him your prayers and supplications in the secret of your heart, and not wound his reputation by your slanderous language. For this method of loving your neighbour by praying for him is very pleasing to Almighty God. But if you wish to abstain from judging your brother when he commits a fault, remember that Judas was one of the apostles, and that one of the thieves crucified with Jesus Christ had been a murderer, yet by a wonderful and sudden change the former became an apostate, the latter a saint.”

5. If any one wishes to conquer the demon of detraction, let him not attribute the sin to the man who has committed it, but to the devil, who whispered the suggestion. For although we all sin without constraint or violence, yet no one formally wishes to offend God.

6. I saw a man who, having committed a crime in public, had done penance for it in private. Thus I found that he whom I had condemned as still incontinent, was at that very time chaste in the sight of God, and reconciled to Him by a true conversion.

7. Have no respect, no forbearance towards him who detract his neighbour in your presence. No, say to him: “Cease, brother, to speak evil of that person. How could I condemn him, I who fall into far more grievous faults every day?” From this simple proceeding you will derive a twofold advantage, that is, a remedy both for your brother and yourself. For one of the shortest methods to obtain the pardon of our sins, is not to judge our neighbour, according to the testimony of the Gospel: “Judge not, that you be not judged.”2

8. Fire is not more opposed to water than rash judgment to the spirit of true repentance. If you should behold a person falling into sin even at the hour of death, do not condemn him, for the judgments of God are concealed from men. Some who have publicly committed grievous transgressions, have in secret redeemed their sins by deeds of virtue far more meritorious than the penalty of their sins demanded. Thus those who were disposed to commit detraction were deceived, by attending only to the smoke which the scandalous actions of these persons had diffused in the eyes of the world, without observing the secret and divine light with which the Sun of Justice had illuminated their hearts.

9. Hearken to me all you who are malicious censurers of your brother’s actions, if it be true, as undoubtedly it is, that you will be judged with the same judgment which you pass upon others, according to the testimony of Jesus Christ,3 -- must you not expect to fall into the same faults, whether spiritual or corporal, which you condemn in your neighbour? This, at least, is an ordinary occurrence.

10. Those persons who so readily assume the office of judging their neighbours, and censuring their actions with a rigorous exactitude, are guilty of violating charity. For they certainly entertain not a perpetual remembrance of their own sins, neither do they bewail them with sufficient sorrow. Since he who has removed from before his eyes the evil of self-love, and considered attentively his own faults, will not trouble himself about any thing else on earth, firmly believing that the remainder of his life, should it be a hundred years, will not suffice to wash out his own guilt, were he even to shed tears equal to the waters of the Jordan; nay, were each single tear a large river. I have closely observed the spirit of true penance in sincere penitents; but I never found in any of them the slightest trace of detraction or rash judgment.

11. The devils, those murderers of souls, violently urge us on to commit sin; or, if they cannot induce us to sin, they prompt us to pass unfounded judgments upon those who do sin. Thus by the pernicious effect of a second suggestion, they sully the purity of our hearts, which we preserved inviolate against their first temptation.

12. One of the marks by which we may recognize the vindictive and the envious, is their hastiness in proceeding, without scruple, and with evident pleasure, to blame and calumniate the doctrine, the actions, and the virtues of their neighbour, being precipitated by the devil into the gulf of hatred.

13. I have known those who, in secret, and secluded from the sight of men, have committed great faults, so confident of the good opinion that was entertained of their purity, that they insulted and treated with contempt any one, who even slightly transgressed before others.

14. To judge our neighbour, is to usurp with insolence, the honour which is due to God alone; and to condemn our neighbour, is to pronounce upon ourselves the sentence of an unhappy death.

15. As the sin of vanity is alone sufficient to plunge man into perdition, so likewise, is rash judgment; for this sin was the condemnation of the Pharisee mentioned in the Gospel.

16. As the prudent vintager eats only ripe grapes, and gathers not those which are green; so an equitable and prudent Christian applies his mind to observe only the virtues of others; whereas the fool and detractor looks after only the faults and vices which he can detect in his neighbour. For this reason the Psalmist exclaims: “They have searched after iniquities; they have failed in their search.”4

17. Do not condemn your neighbour even upon the testimony of your own eyes, because the sight itself is often deceived.

He who has ascended this tenth step will conduct himself by no other rule than by that of the spirit of charity and penance.


  1. Ps. c. 5.

  2. Matt. vii. I.

  3. Matt. vii. 2.

  4. Ps. lxiii. 7.



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Archbishop Gregory
Dormition Skete
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