60. Silence the man who utters slander in your hearing. Otherwise you sin twice over: first, you accustom yourself to this deadly passion and, second you fail to prevent him from gossiping against his neighbor.
There is no such thing as being able to stand passively aloof from gossip and slander. When we tell ourselves that as long as we don’t participate in spreading gossip we stand above those who do, we are lying to ourselves. We have to be actively engaged in an effort to stop gossip. We have to silence those speaking to us as soon as we begin to recognize what they are doing.
As this text reminds us, if don’t we are guilty twice over. We make ourselves ever more comfortable in gossip and slander, which James reminds us is absolutely deadly and destructive. And we allow our brother or sister to engage in sin. God’s unspoken, but implicit answer to Cain’s question, Am I my brother’s keeper?, is his answer to us all. Yes, we are our brother’s keeper. We do not exist isolated and responsible for only ourselves. Even the monk alone in the remotest cell is responsible and prays for the whole world.
I am often guilty of holding myself aloof and distant. In part it’s a learned defense mechanism. It’s a little harder for people to hurt you that way. But if you are going to love, you have to drop your defenses and risk being hurt. That’s a very scary, even terrifying thing to do — at least for me. I’m afraid I’m still not very good at love.