The Imitation of Christ with a
Commentary and Audio Files
by Father Thomas à Kempis
of the Canons Regular of Mount St. Agnes
(1380 - 1471)
The following pages are dedicated
to the Little Hearts entrusted by God
to Cloistered Poor Clare Colettine Nuns
Prudence in Action
“DO NOT yield to every impulse and
suggestion but consider things carefully and patiently in the light
of God’s will. For very often, sad to say, we are so weak that we
believe and speak evil of others rather than good. Perfect men,
however, do not readily believe every talebearer, because they know
that human frailty is prone to evil and is likely to appear in
Not to act rashly or to cling obstinately to one’s opinion, not to
believe everything people say or to spread abroad the gossip one has
heard, is great wisdom.
Take counsel with a wise and conscientious man. Seek the advice of
your betters in preference to following your own inclinations.
A good life makes a man wise according to God and
gives him experience in many things, for the more
humble he is and the more subject to God, the wiser
and the more at peace he will be in all things.”
Click here to listen to this chapter
you realize that when you disclose the sin of
another, you become guilty of that sin ... and more, for you add
to it the sin of slander and gossip! Whether publicly or
privately (you know, "I shouldn't tell you this, but ...",
"Between you and me ...", "I am telling you this in secret ..."
— sound familiar?) when you uncover, disclose,
reveal the sin of another to anyone under any circumstances
... you make that sin your own. And with the sin the guilt. And
with the guilt the just punishment (that in
all likelihood you would happily see visited upon your neighbor
who sinned first).
Read that again.
This chapter possesses great wisdom in few words. It reaffirms
our need to pray over the human encounters that we have with
others in our daily lives.
We have all seen the havoc, the damage , disaster and wreckage
that a hurricane, a tsunami, or an earthquake can bring. Equally
devastating and as broadly destructive can be the havoc and
chaos wrought by the human tongue when it is not tethered by
love and breaks loose of the Commandments of God. Like the
tsunami, its effects extend far beyond what we could possibly
anticipate. It is whispered in one ear ... and pours out of the
mouths of thousands. Would that the Gospel were communicated so
quickly, so broadly ... and so eagerly!
Saint James unsparingly warns us of the danger of the human
tongue: and he does so in absolutely clear and unambiguous
tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity. The tongue is
placed among our members, which defileth the whole
body, and inflameth the wheel of our nativity, being
set on fire by hell. For every nature of beasts, and
of birds, and of serpents, and of the rest, is
tamed, and hath been tamed, by the nature of man:
But the tongue no man can tame, an unquiet evil,
full of deadly poison."
Thomas A Kempis is doing
Human relationships (which are always delicate), families, and
even entire communities can be so severely wounded if not
utterly broken and scattered, by the malicious activity of the
tongue which lends itself so easily to the evil of gossip and
We have such a tremendous personal responsibility in our
conversations and verbal exchanges — and few of us take
thought of it. The words leave our mouths and as quickly as
they pass, so does our responsibility for anything that ensues
as a result of them — or so we mistakenly think. They are,
after all, "just words", uttered in mere seconds — and kept in
the same confidence in which you had kept it ... which is to
say, none! But you cannot call them back! As Confucius wisely
observed, "One cannot unsay what one has said."
Be the floodgate against that tide of poison! Let is stop with
you and go no further! Your "confidential friend" does not live
in isolation, and neither do you. If she has spoken ill of
another, betrayed the trust of another, revealed the sin of
another, she will speak ill of you, as easily betray you, and
reveal your own sins and indiscretions as readily as she
revealed the sins of others to you — and with the same false
promise with which she first disclosed it to you. In many ways,
tongues you will know your friends.
Needless to say, in our own conversations many of us are guilty
of proffering "tidbits" of lethal information that can easily
assassinate the character of another. How reluctant, how slow we
are to cloak the actions of others in charity rather than
exposing them to shame!
We must recognize and be aware of this sinfulness within us that
wittingly or not lures others, subtly encourages others, to also
propagate sin through gossip. This much needed awareness should
make us, at such times of temptation, to choose to die to our
selves and our own wills and desires and to choose what we know
God would have of us. No sin, we soon come to find, is entirely
personal after all; it always affects, and most often poisons,
What, then, are we to do in the problematic situation where, in
some way or another, we become involved in an encounter fraught
with moral or spiritual danger to another?
Are we to say nothing? Do nothing? Let evil pass?
It is a false concept of charity if we see a person in moral
danger, from sex, drugs, drink and make "charitable excuses" for
them, which not oinly pander to their sins but perpetuate them
because we do not have the courage of the conviction to help
them. We have a duty to protect and nurture life. It is a
three-fold duty: to God Who created them and loves them, to they
themselves who either fail to apprehend the good or have not the
strength to seize it, and to ourselves upon whom it is incumbent
to be "our brother's keeper."
But, in such a given situation, first we must first carefully
examine our own motivations and intentions with great honestly,
being certain of facts (not our imaginings!) and speaking
directly — and discreetly — to those involved. Christ
Himself tells us very clearly,
"If thy brother shall offend against thee, go, and rebuke him
between thee and him alone."
Some situations may be more difficult and delicate. Thomas gives
such wise advice here: seek counsel from those in a position to
do so, a priest, someone anointed to care and guide souls. What
the Priest may say may or may not be pleasing to you, but obey
his directives, and God who sees your obedience and desire for
good will bring some greater good out of the situation than any
counsel that you alone can impart.
Saint Francis de Sales speaks of this eloquently and at greater
length in his renowned spiritual work, "An Introduction to
the Devout Life" which should be, together with the
"Imitation of Christ" and "Abandonment to Divine
Providence" by Father Jean-Pierre de Caussade (with the
translation by John Beevers), on the reading list of
every Catholic. For your convenience,
Francis De Sale's treatment on this subject is available as a
printable PDF file by clicking here.
It is wonderful and profitable reading!
1 Saint James 3.6-8
2 Saint Matthew 18.15
Your Little Sisters in
with our co-worker, Joseph Mary
Printable PDF Version of Sister's
Continue to Chapter
5 of the Imitation of Christ
Back to chapter 3