Catholic Q&A

I have been going to church for a while, but the hassle of relationships has kept me away. Why do believers, who are supposed to know God’s love so well, complain about others behind their backs?

I regret to say that this is not the first time I have been asked this question. On hearing similar laments and complaints I often repeat with a sigh, “Oh not again…” The Lord Jesus told His disciples to love one another. In the Gospel of John we have the passage, “A new commandment I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another,” (John 13:34~35). Hence, within a Church which is meant to be a community of love, if people start backbiting and slandering each other, the result would be that those trying to learn the teachings of Christ are less likely to come, or that the good intentions of those who are trying to serve the Church will be nipped in the bud. There is nothing more detrimental to the essence of the Church.

On the other hand however, the Church is also an assembly of sinners. People swap boring gossip, they speak of others behind their backs, and so on, and at times they don’t even realize how hurtful it can be. So, even if Christians were to fall far short of lofty ideals such as loving all people, at the very least a minimum principle on their part should be not to speak either good or bad about others unnecessarily, and not to believe what they hear about them. Just as the slightest poison can paralyze the entire body, so also a casual rumor can dull, taint, and diminish the spirituality of an entire community.

On the other hand, if you find that you yourself are being spoken of behind your back by others, consider it a good occasion to grow in faith. Unless it is in heaven, bigotry and misunderstanding are unavoidable within any human gathering on earth. However, if people think or speak ill you, that would be a great opening for you to follow Christ, who was so demeaned by people. Even if what was said or done was not in accordance with the facts, you should not venture to make excuses. In the Gospel of Matthew Jesus makes the following statement. “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” (Matthew 5:11~12). In order to get closer to Christ, St. Ignatius of Loyola, (as long as he did not become a stumbling block to others), wished for himself to be insulted rather than honored, to be considered a fool rather than respected. Well, even if you cannot be as heroic as that, I still hope you can grow into developing such a strong faith and love, that you will not be intimidated by a little backbiting.

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