Of all the sins that we all fall into from time to time, certainly backbiting, the ultimate sin of the tongue, may be the most insidious. Backbiting is simply speaking about others behind their backs. The implication, of course, is that we are not speaking about that person’s wonderful traits or actions but, more than likely, their perceived faults.
Slander is most often used to describe lies spoken about others which hurt their reputation or good name. It is clear that spreading lies about others is a serious sin, and most people would admit to that. However, backbiting does not care whether what is said is false or true. The mere act of spreading anything even remotely negative about another behind their back is wrong because such an act harms three souls and the environment in which such a sin is committed. First, backbiting harms the reputation of the one spoken about, and does so without giving that victim any recourse or means of responding to the claim. Some will claim that where the so-called victim has committed an evil or wrong act, there is no reputation or good name to care about. However, that is not our decision to make. Like so many sins, we get into spiritual and, by extension, eternal, trouble any time we start making ourselves judge and jury of what is or is not proper and moral. When we hear of something negative about a person, we should simply pray for them and stop the spread of the rumors right there. Let us not throw gasoline on a raging fire and claim that the fire was already set before we added our contribution!
Secondly, backbiting harms the souls of any who hear our words because it exposes them to not only the harmful information but, just as importantly, it infects their ears and minds with negativity about that person through our gleeful efforts. Those who hear us are thus tempted to continue the process and, through human nature and weakness plus the implication of our actions, the listeners are encouraged to spread the harmful news as well.
Third, backbiting harms the environment in which it is spread because it creates the impression that people can be torn apart by words behind their backs, and that there are those in the situation that have the right to point fingers at others which, by implication, implies that those pointing fingers are not guilty themselves of some or most of what they are accusing others of doing. We should create and enforce a zero tolerance for backbiting in our lives, and in that way we will be spreading God’s love and charity instead of the devil’s hate and evil.
Finally, of course, backbiting endangers the soul and salvation of the one backbiting. It would truly be a tragedy is we did our best to be clear of all sins commonly discussed, yet fall because we fail to discuss and avoid backbiting. Many saints have stated that we will be ordered to make restitution for the harm our tongues has created, be it on this earth or after our death, in one way or another. It seems to me that we should start by avoiding and then make sure we do our best to dismantle the backbiting we have turned into a past time.
2016 Gabriel Garnica