Detraction is the unjust damaging of another's good name by the revelation of some fault or crime of which that other is really guilty or at any rate is seriously believed to be guilty by the defamer.
Oh boy, this is a tough one. It's easy to rationalize my own opinions of something and keep them to myself. But what if a person really did me wrong? What if I really did catch my son stealing that cookie? Or, what if I'm pretty sure he stole the cookie because he was the only one in the house! All signs point to his guiltiness! Don't I have a right to tell the other people who have cookies to beware? That my son is a thief? Hmmm...
Russ Rentler's Blog on Detraction says it so well:
What is the sin of detraction?Detraction reveals something about another person that is true but harmful to that person’s reputation.
The fact that something is true does not justify its disclosure. We may not reveal another person’s secret faults or defects unless there is proportionate good involved.
Detraction is a sin against justice because it robs a person of his reputation. Each person has a strict right to his reputation, whether deserved or not.
Because detraction is a sin against justice, it requires reparation. The detractor must try to repair the damage to the victim’s reputation, and also to restore any temporal loss from the detraction, such as loss of employment or customers.
The Catechism teaches:(2477) Respect for the reputation of persons forbids every attitude and word likely to cause them unjust injury. He becomes guilty:
- of rash judgment who, even tacitly, assumes as true, without sufficient foundation, the moral fault of a neighbor;
- of detraction who, without objectively valid reason, discloses another's faults and failings to persons who did not know them;
- of calumny who, by remarks contrary to the truth, harms the reputation of others and gives occasion for false judgments concerning them.
As much as I would love to add some pithy, enlightened comments, I really can't. I think this says it all.
I will say that I find that anger seems to be when I, and most people, are most prone to the detraction gossip. In other words someone has done some thing to me and I am fightin' mad! So, what do I do with the anger? I tell everyone who will listen, and then some, everything I can find wrong, a little wrong, big wrong, and maybe wrong about that person so they will be as angry as I am.
I actually found out about the sin of detraction because I had a person come to me who was very upset that said child did not enter the private school of their choice. This person was convinced, whether true or not I don't know, that it was a conspiracy by the staff of said school. The anger spilled into detraction and information regarding staff was spilled onto the floor. I just stared with my mouth agape. How could I defend all these people? How did I know if what she were saying was true? I felt sorry for those she maligned, true or not. This was when I looked up detraction and I think the posts mentioned here give us a very clear idea.
My husband told me his Mom would give him this bit of wisdom before he left the house. It was "Don't tell everything you know."