Taken from The Millennial Star, Volume 22
There is frequently a great deal of carelessness, or perhaps, more properly speaking, recklessness, manifested by many in speaking about their neighbours and in canvassing their characters. Something or other will occasionally occur in conversation that will call the name of some brother or sister into notice; and no sooner is the name mentioned than ail opinion is uttered respecting them; their merits and faults are all reviewed, an estimate of their character formed, and, whether correct or not, a decision pronounced in accordance therewith. Among this people such a mode of procedure is productive of evil results. A man’s character and standing among his brethren is more precious, and ought to be more highly valued, than gold or silver, or any earthly riches. Whoever speaks lightly or accusingly of it, and in a way to injure his good name, wounds him in a vital part: they do him an injury that cannot easily be remedied.
In the world, the man that is saving, and successful in accumulating property and means, expects to bequeath such to his children. With many of them wealth is looked upon as possessing more importance than anything else, and as being absolutely necessary to obtain a respectable standing in society. Its acquisition is therefore an object. But with us it is different. We might have been a wealthy people, had we been permitted to dwell in peace; but we have not been, and consequently we are poor. That which we have to-day, we know not what combination of circumstances may deprive us of to-morrow. We cannot calculate with any certainty on leaving property and any amount of worldly substance to our children. But if we have a good name—if our character is irreproachable and unspotted, we can bequeath that to them as precious inheritance, of which they and their children after them will be eternally proud.
Our good name and character with us, therefore, ought to be sacred and estimated at priceless value. Property is but a matter of secondary importance : it is perishable. The man that robs his brother of it takes that which can easily be replaced ; but if he rob him of his good name—assail his character, he does him an injury that is felt sometimes for years. Of coarse, the faithful man will outlive such injuries : his character will eventually shine out bright and unspotted. But how severe the trial to which he is thus unnecessarily subjected by the thoughtlessness (to call it by no worse a name) of him or them who ought to cheer and build him up! Even if a man should have faults—should do wrong, it certainly does not comport with the dignity and profession of a Saint to publicly parade them. Those who have a disposition of this kind should remember that they themselves are not faultless; and if they seek to correct their own failings, it will so occupy their time, that they will have no leisure to pay attention to those of others.
Many who have fallen into this habit to which we allude do not seem to be aware of the evil consequences attending their indulgence in it. They have let their tongues run unbridled so long, that they have lost all perception of the enormity of such a course. They would recoil at the thought of doing their brother a great injury or wrong; yet they think it no harm to indulge in gossip about his peculiarities, which in some instances results in grievous harm to him, and grieves the Spirit of the Lord, and causes it to decrease within them. Others consider it a positive merit to speak their minds freely and unreservedly about their brethren under all circumstances. In their opinion, they would be doing very wrong to have a feeling in their heart and not give it utterance: right or wrong, they must blurt it out. So sensitive are they lest they should conceal anything, that they will not even repress wrong feelings that may spring up in their hearts, much less control their tongues. The words of such are like daggers, piercing and lacerating wherever they fall.
We must learn to guard our tongues and never give utterance to a word that would detract in the least from our brother or sister’s character. If they should have faults, and we be aware of them, there is a proper course to be taken to have them corrected, without telling it to everybody but the one most interested. If it should be necessary to speak about them, we should say naught that we would be ashamed for them to hear, if they were within earshot. By strictly adhering to a course of this kind, confidence will grow and increase to an unprecedented extent, and the infliction of much pain be avoided.