Josemaría Escrivá Obras

When such a deformation has become almost second nature it is difficult to help people to see that it is both more human and more truthful to think well of others. St Augustine recommends the following rule-of-thumb: "Try to acquire the virtues you believe lacking in your brothers. Then you will no longer see their defects, for you will no longer have them yourselves." Some would find this way of acting naive. They are wiser, more "realistic."

Setting their prejudices up as criteria, they are quick to criticise anybody and slow to listen. Afterwards perhaps, out of "open-mindedness" or "fair play," they extend to the accused the possibility of defending himself. Flying in the face of the most elementary justice and morality — for he who accuses must bear the burden of proof — they "grant" the innocent party the "privilege" of proving himself blameless.

I must confess that these thoughts are not borrowed from textbooks on law or moral theology. They are based on the experience of many people who have borne these blows. Time and again, over a number of years, they, like many others, have served as a bull's-eye for the target-practice of those who specialise in gossip, defamation and calumny. The grace of God and a nature little given to recrimination have spared them from the slightest trace of bitterness. "To me it is a very small thing to be judged by you," they could say with St Paul. Using a more common expression, they could have added that the whole thing was just a storm in a tea-cup. And that's the truth.

Nonetheless, I can't deny that I am saddened by those who unjustly attack the integrity of others, for the slanderer destroys himself. And I suffer, too, for all those who, in the face of arbitrary and outrageous accusations, do not know where to turn. They are frightened. They do not believe it is possible, they wonder if the whole thing is not a nightmare.

Several days ago we read in the epistle of the holy Mass the story of Susanna, that chaste woman so falsely accused of wrongdoing by two lustful old men. "Susanna groaned deeply; There is no escape for me, she said, either way. It is death if I consent, and if I refuse I shall be at your mercy." How often does the trickery of those moved by envy and intrigue force many noble Christians into the same corner? They are offered only one choice: offend God or ruin their reputation. The only acceptable and upright solution is, at the same time, highly painful. Yet they must decide: "Let me rather fall into your power through no act of mine, than commit sin in the Lord's sight."

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