Let your words be kindly, frank, sincere, straightforward, simple
and true; avoid all artifice, duplicity and pretence, remembering
that, although it is not always well to publish abroad everything
that may be true, yet it is never allowable to oppose the truth.
Make it your rule never knowingly to say what is not strictly
true, either accusing or excusing, always remembering that God is
the God of Truth. If you have unintentionally said what is not
true, and it is possible to correct yourself at once by means of
explanation or reparation, do so. A straightforward excuse has far
greater weight than any falsehood.
It may be lawful occasionally to conceal or disguise the truth,
but this should never be done save in such special cases as make
this reserve obviously a necessity for the service and glory of
God. Otherwise all such artifice is dangerous; and we are told in
Holy Scripture that God's Holy Spirit will not abide with the
false or double-minded.
Depend upon it there is no craft half so profitable and
successful as simplicity. Worldly prudence and artifice belong to
the children of this world; but the children of God go straight on
with a single heart and in all confidence;--falsehood, deceit and
duplicity are sure signs of a mean, weak mind.
In the Fourth Book of his Confessions, S. Augustine spoke in
very strong terms of his passionate devotion to a friend, saying
that they had but as one soul, and that after his friend's death
his life was a horror to him, although he feared to die. But later
on these expressions seemed unreal and affected to him, and he
withdrew them in his Retractations. (1) You see how sensitive that
great mind was to unreality or affectation. Assuredly
straightforward honesty and sincerity in speech is a great beauty
in the Christian life. "I said I will take heed to my ways, that I
offend not in my tongue." (2) "Set a watch, O Lord, before my
mouth, and keep the door of my lips." (3)
It was a saying of S. Louis, that one should contradict nobody,
unless there was sin or harm in consenting; and that in order to
avoid contention and dispute. At any rate, when it is necessary to
contradict anybody, or to assert one's own opinion, it should be
done gently and considerately, without irritation or vehemence.
Indeed, we gain nothing by sharpness or petulance.
The silence, so much commended by wise men of old, does not
refer so much to a literal use of few words, as to not using many
useless words. On this score, we must look less to the quantity
than the quality, and, as it seems to me, our aim should be to
avoid both extremes. An excessive reserve and stiffness, which
stands aloof from familiar friendly conversation, is untrusting,
and implies a certain sort of contemptuous pride; while an
incessant chatter and babble, leaving no opportunity for others to
put in their word, is frivolous and troublesome.
S. Louis objected to private confidences and whisperings in
society, especially at table, lest suspicion should be aroused
that scandal was being repeated. "Those who have anything amusing
or pleasant to say," he argued, "should let everybody share the
entertainment, but if they want to speak of important matters,
they should wait a more suitable time."