"Nothing should be said to lessen the good name of others, or to complain about them," St. Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Jesuits, advised his followers.
Obviously, he was setting the bar plenty high. And some of us might wonder if we would be doomed to a life of silence if we and all our friends consistently followed this advice.
After all, we know that a little complaining can even be therapeutic -- especially if we choose our listeners carefully, confident in their compassion and discretion. But complaining about and disparaging others can also become a habit -- a lens through which we unnecessarily hurt the reputation of another while we feed our own grievances, which can sink and blind us in a bath of bias.
Ignatius sounds pretty harsh when he continues: "If I reveal a hidden mortal sin of another, I sin mortally; if I reveal a hidden venial sin, I sin venially; if I reveal a defect, I manifest my own." But his firm admonition puts him in good company.
Jesus himself sounds pretty firm -- and clear -- when he says: "Stop judging, that you may not be judged. For as you judge, so will you be judged, and the measure with which you measure will be measured out to you. Why do you notice the splinter in your brother's eye, but do not perceive the wooden beam in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, 'Let me remove that splinter from your eye,' while the wooden beam is in your eye? You hypocrite, remove the wooden beam from your eye first; then you will see clearly to remove the splinter from your brother's eye." (Mat 7:1-5)
Maybe it's impossible to never say anything negative or to never complain about another person. And sometimes -- especially in leadership positions -- we are responsible for evaluating the behavior of others. We are expected to judge. What then?
Tread carefully and respectfully. Focus on behaviors, on performance factors. Be always mindful of the dignity of the person across the desk -- or even beyond earshot. Keep asking yourself how you would want to be treated if the situation and circumstances were reversed. Remember that often, in the right circumstances, people who have languished can begin to flower, just as one of Jesus' parables notes how seeds which would otherwise die can thrive in good soil.
Adapted and used with permission from Take Five: On-the-Job Meditations with St. Ignatius by Mike Aquilina and Fr. Kris D. Stubna, Copyright © by Our Sunday Visitor Publishing Division, Our Sunday Visitor, Inc.
Copyright © 2012 Yeshua Catholic International Leadership Institute, 208 E. North St., Durand, IL 61024. Any part of this newsletter may be reproduced so long as there is full attribution, our web site is listed, and any electronic reproduction includes a link to our site: http://www.yeshualeader.com.