April 2, 2004


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This afternoon, I was reading Thomas Oden’s Pastoral Counsel, volume 3 of his Classical Pastoral Care, and thought I’d pass on these quotations on fault-finding (pp. 170-171).

The first is from Climacus’s The Ladder of Divine Ascent:

I have heard people slandering, and I have rebuked them. And these doers of evil replied in self-defence that they were doing so out of love and care for the person whom they were slandering. I said to them: “Stop that kind of love.” … A charitable and sensible mind takes careful note of whatever virtues it sees in anyone, but a fool looks for faults and defects (Step 10, secs. 4, 16).

The second is from Hugh of St. Victor:

Because a person once puffed up has learnt to think thus highly of himself, he disdains to bring his own actions before the bar of reason, and the less he thinks there is within himself that merits blame, the readier he is to hunt down someone else. Yet this pride cloaks itself at first under the semblance of good zeal, and it persuades the deluded heart that he who acquiesces in another’s fault is no perfect lover of righteousness, and that he undoubtedly so acquiesces, who neglects to rebuke an offender while he can.

Deluded by this error, therefore, the sorely imperceptive soul gives itself over wholly to the vice of curious inquiry. And by degrees, as the disease increases, while at the outset it makes a habit of chasing after other people’s faults without restraint, it ultimately reaches a condition in which, with everything it sees, it tries either to misrepresent it openly, or to interpret it unfavourably.

Thus, for instance, if such persons see that some people are a trifle anxious about common needs, they call them covetous. Those whom they see provident they call misers. Those again who are friendly and cheerful towards everyone are, so they say, given to the vice of flattery; and at the same time they believe that those who generally go about with a sad face are eaten up with jealousy (Selected Sacred Writings, pp. 109-110).

And finally, this little gem from Luther:

Everyone enjoys hearing and telling the worst about his neighbor and it tickles him to see a fault in someone else. If a woman were as beautiful as the sun but had one little spot or blemish on her body, you would be expected to look only for that spot and to talk about it (“Lectures on Galatians, 1519”).

Posted by John Barach @ 2:59 pm | Discuss (0)

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