A man would get a very false notion of his standing among his friends and acquaintances if it
were possible - as many would like to have it possible - to know what is said of him behind his
back. One day he would go about in a glow of self-esteem, and the next he would be bowed
under a miserable sense of misapprehension and disgust. It would be impossible for him to put
this and that together and "strike an average." The fact is, there is a strange human tendency
to take the present friend into present confidence. With strong natures this tendency proves
often a stumbling-block; with weak natures it amounts to fickleness. It is a proof, no doubt, of
the universal brotherhood; but one has to watch, lest, in an unguarded moment it lead him
into ever so slight disloyalty to the absent.
Never employ yourself to discover the faults of others - look to your own. You had better find
out one of your own faults than ten of your neighbor's. When a thing does not suit you, think
of some pleasant quality in it. There is nothing so bad as it might be. Whenever you catch
yourself in a fault-finding remark, say some approving one in the same breath, and you will
soon be cured. Since the best of us have too many infirmities to answer for, says Dean Swift,
we ought not to be too severe upon those of others; and, therefore, if our brother is in trouble,
we ought to help him, without inquiring over-seriously what produced it.
Those who have the fewest resources in themselves naturally seek the food of their self-love
elsewhere. The most ignorant people find most to laugh at in strangers; scandal and satire
prevail most in small places; and the propensity to ridicule the slightest or most palpable
deviation from what we happen to approve, ceases with the progress of common sense and
decency. True worth does not exult in the faults and deficiency of others; as true refinement
turns away from grossness and deformity, instead of being tempted to indulge in an unmanly
triumph over it. Raphael would not faint away at the daubing of a sign-post, nor Homer hold
his head higher for being in the company of a "great bard." Real power, real excellence does
not seek for a foil in imperfection; nor fear contamination from coming in contact with that
which is coarse and homely. It reposes on itself and is equally free from envy and affectation.
There are some persons who seem to purposely treasure up things that are disagreeable.
The tongue that feeds on mischief, the babbling, the tattling, the sly whispering, the
impertinent meddling, all these tongues are trespassing on the community constantly. The
fiery tongue is also abroad, and being set on fire of hell, scatters firebrands among friends,
sets families, neighborhoods, churches, and social circles in a flame; and, like the salamander,
is wretched when out of the burning element. The black slandering tongue is constantly
preying upon the rose buds of innocence and virtue, the foliage of merit, worth, genius, and
talent; and poisons us with its filth of innuendoes and scum of falsehood, the most brilliant
flowers, the most useful shrubs, and the most valuable trees in the garden of private and
public reputation. Not content with its own base exertions, it leagues with the envious, jealous,
and revengeful tongues; and, aided by this trio, sufficient venom is combined to make a second
Pandemonium; and malice enough to fill it with demons. Slander can swallow perjury like
water, digest forgery as readily as Graham bread, convert white into black, truth into
falsehood, good into evil, innocence into crime, and metamorphose every thing which stands in
the current of its polluted and polluting breath.
We can understand how a boy that never had been taught better might carry torpedoes in his
pocket, and delight to throw them down at the feet of passers-by and see them bound; but we
cannot understand how an instructed and well-meaning person could do such a thing. And yet
there are men who carry torpedoes all their life, and take pleasure in tossing them at people.
"Oh!" they say, "I have something now, and when I meet that man I will give it to him." And
they wait for the right company and the right circumstances, and then they out with the most
disagreeable things. And if they are remonstrated with, they say, "It is true," as if that were a
justification of their conduct. If God should take all the things that are true of you, and make
a scourge of them, and whip you with it, you would be the most miserable of men. But he does
not use all the truth on you. And is there no law of kindness? Is there no desire to please and
profit men? Have you a right to take any little story that you can pick up about a man, and
use it in such a way as to injure him, or give him pain? And yet, how many men there are that
seem to enjoy nothing so much as inflicting exquisite suffering upon a man in this way, when
he cannot help himself? Well, you know just how the devil feels. Whenever he has done
anything wicked, and has made somebody very unhappy, and laughs, he feels just as, for the
time being, you feel when you have done a cruel thing, and somebody is hurt, and it does you
By the rules of justice, no man ought to be ridiculed for any imperfection who does not set up
for eminent sufficiency in that wherein he is defective. If thou wouldst bear thy neighbor's
faults, cast thy eyes upon thy own.
It is easier to avoid a fault than to acquire a perfection. By others' faults wise men correct
their own. He that contemns a small fault commits a great one. The greatest of all faults is to
believe we have none. Little minds ignore their own weakness, and carp at the defects of the
great; but great minds are sensible of their own faults, and largely compassionate toward
Beecher says: "When the absent are spoken of, some will speak gold of them, some silver,
some iron, some lead, and some always speak dirt; for they have a natural attraction toward
what is evil and think it shows penetration in them. As a cat watching for mice does not look
up though an elephant goes by, so they are so busy mousing for defects that they let great
excellences pass them unnoticed. I will not say that it is not Christian to make beads of others'
faults, and tell them over every day; I say it is infernal. If you want to know how the devil
feels, you do know if you are such a one."
There are no such disagreeable people in the world as those who are forever seeking their
own improvement, and disquieting themselves about this fault and that; while, on the other
hand, there is an unconscious merit which wins more good than all the theoretically virtuous
in the wide world.
What a world of gossip would be prevented, if it were only remembered that a person who
tells you the faults of others intends to tell others of your faults. Every one has his faults; every
man his ruling passion. The eye that sees all things sees not itself. That man hath but an ill life
of it, who feeds himself with the faults and frailties of other people. Were not curiosity the
purveyor, detraction would soon be starved into tameness.
To a pure, sensitive, and affectionate mind, every act of finding fault, or dealing in
condemnation, is an act of pain. It is only when we have become callous to the world, and
strangers to the sentiments of compassionate love, that we are able to play with unconcern the
parts of persecutors and slanderers, and that we can derive any pleasure from malignity and
revenge. He who is the first to condemn, will be often the last to forgive.
The Royal Path of Life - Aims and Aids to Success and Happiness - 1882 by T.L. Haines & L.W. Yaggy