Hatred delights in the troubles of another. It is often manifest, sometimes very subtly, by the sins of gossip and detraction.
“He who says he is in the light and hates his brother is in the darkness still.”— 1 Jn. 2:9
We Christians— no matter how proper and successful we may outwardly appear to be to others— are not immune to this; we are warned by the Lord not to judge our neighbor (at home or at church). Restless idle Christians often enough exhibit in vanity a secret delight in the trials and calamities of others. When this happens it is a spiritual crime.
We may feign concern for the ones we secretly detest, we may even ask others for prayers for him or her (which request can serve as a particularly odious disguise for vicious gossip), but inwardly this hatred destroys our spiritual life. It is a grave danger.
The Sin of Detraction
Detraction comes from detract, which means to diminish, or to speak badly of someone or something.
St. Vincent de Paul wrote,
“Detraction is a triple murder: it kills the one who commits it, the one who listens to it, and the one who is the object of it.”¹
He explained that detraction kills the one who commits it by depriving him of grace and charity, the one who listens to it by making him judge his neighbor unfavorably, and the one who is the object of it by ruining his reputation and causing him sorrow. He also said that detraction is worse than homicide, because it kills the soul rather than the body. He said:
– “Those who engage in detraction against Christ in His members, because they kill the souls of future believers, do more damage than those who have destroyed the flesh, which is soon to rise.”¹
He advised his followers to avoid detraction and to speak well of others, even if they are sinners. He wrote:
– “We must not judge, we must not condemn, we must not speak evil of others; on the contrary, we must excuse their faults charitably and try to hide them from others as much as possible.”²
– “We must never speak ill of our neighbor unless we are obliged to do so for some reason of justice or charity.”²
– “We must always speak well of our neighbor or say nothing at all.”²
(1) QUESTION 73 Detraction – University of Notre Dame. https://www3.nd.edu/~afreddos/summa-translation/Part%202-2/st2-2-ques73.pdf.
(2) St. Vincent de Paul – Encyclopedia Britannica. https://www.britannica.com/biography/Saint-Vincent-de-Paul.
(3) Saint Vincent de Paul | Franciscan Media. https://www.franciscanmedia.org/saint-of-the-day/saint-vincent-de-paul/.
We are taught by our Lord never to delight in the sufferings of others, but to try to lend a sincere hand, a hand of peace and genuine empathy, of heartfelt assistance whenever we can. This should be obvious to Christians. But we need constant reminders, for good reason.
“Never be entirely idle; but either be reading, or writing, or praying or meditating or endeavoring something for the public good.”— Thomas a Kempis
The LORD knows our hidden hearts
Would not God find this out? For He knows the secrets of the heart
You know my folly, O God, and my guilt is not hidden from You.
O LORD, You have searched me and known me.
You know when I sit and when I rise; You understand my thoughts from afar.
Sheol and Abaddon lie open before the LORD–how much more the hearts of men!
I, the LORD, search the heart; I examine the mind to reward a man according to his way, by what his deeds deserve.