A Virtuous Mind

Defamation is becoming a necessary of life; insomuch, that a dish of tea in the morning or evening cannot be digested without this stimulant. Even those who do not believe these abominations, still read them with complaisance to their auditors, and instead of the abhorrence and indignation which should fill a virtuous mind, betray a secret pleasure in the possibility that some may believe them, though they do not themselves.” – Thomas Jefferson, letter to John Norvell, Jun. 11, 1807

If you’ve ever been the subject of a surreptitious or openly public defamatory attack, you’ve likely taken note of the effect that this particularly nasty venom had on the world around you. The poison of defamation tends to catalyze or paralyze, depending on how it is handled, and I think it’s safe to say that most people do not spend enough time reasoning their response to this particular brand of injustice; they simply react instinctively or habitually.

You’ve probably noticed that such responses come in many forms, including, but not limited to:

  1. The Counterattackers – Some will seek to redress the libel or slander on their own by giving voice to their opinions on the matter in an effort to right the wrong
  2. The Comforters – Others will succor you overtly or anonymously by providing an empathetic “shoulder” for you to lean on, with or without actively addressing the source of the injustice
  3. The Legalists – A few will likely encourage you to “fight the good fight” by appealing to the courts
  4. The Vigilantes – While yet others make a plea for extralegal mores to clarify the matter
  5. The Rubberneckers – Many will simply refuse to bring the issue to point in themselves and stand noncommittally on the sidelines in the spirit of “it’s not my fight”, while extracting a certain vicarious pleasure in the fact that they weren’t in the spotlight, this time
  6. The Clement – While perhaps the least common approach, you may have those in your world who remain above the matter entirely by virtue of a sufficient purity of heart and who, as a result, exhort forgiveness and magnanimity regardless of the nature of the offense

I have a few questions upon which much useful meditation might occur:

  1. How have you responded to defamatory injustices in the world around you? And why?
  2. Did your approach help or complicate the matter?
  3. What, if anything, should you do differently moving forward to align your responses to such injustices with what Jefferson described as “a virtuous mind”?

The way in which you carry yourself when others are the subject of defamation will condition the way that those around you respond when the cruel spotlight of defamation is turned on you.


12 thoughts on “A Virtuous Mind

  1. Troy

    This post is well worth a significant amount of honest introspection. It brings to point how we truly engage in the world. I have found parts of myself in each definition of response. and in each case, the reactionary responses or even the silent watchful approach brought about more shame than resolution. Over the years I have looked to align myself more with The Clement relative to my response, though I can honestly see where there is room to grow. When under attack or seeing an attack occur, it is so valuable to seek the highest and finest in myself. Those around who rise to the nature of The Clement certainly stand out radiantly and are a wonderful influence in the world. Moving forward each day I will make a more deliberate choice to act with a “virtuous mind”. We do have the choice to create or destroy with each interaction, we are here to create in abundance. Thank you for your wise words today. I will continue to ask the questions you posed regularly.


  2. Joshua

    Whats wrong with someone is beside the point, what’s right is the point.
    Be ever careful not to agree with said defamation, for that’s exactly what allows it to exist.
    Lift it up, whether by ignoring, or if a forced issue, meeting it in the spirit of forgiveness, and focusing on what is right with the individual on the stand.
    The best way moving forward, is to do so with certainty that ones heart is consistently in the right place, and if not, get it there. Through the many means available every moment.(All within). Great topic, and much work to be done, in removing that nasty habit, whenever and wherever met, by giving it NO FUEL.


  3. Colin

    I think that many times, if I am the one being attacked, I have tended to be indignant toward the attacker, yet as time goes on I realize that this is a limited approach. It tends to block an honest look at whether the person’s defamation has some truth to it or not, and it also harbors a festering sore in the heart where the indignant feeling sits. It is so much better to be the clement, both as a friend to someone who was defamed, as as the defamed party yourself. It gives you the best chance to fix what could potentially be a problem with yourself, and it also removes the poison of hate from your heart for the defamer, which does no harm to them but will eventually diminished the defamed who holds a grudge.


  4. Ernest

    We certainly have choices as to how we deal with this type of character assassination and I have learned from personal experience that the choices that we make say an awful lot about our own character. For example, I have noticed that those who engage in petty gossip are likely to believe gossip about others even when there is not a shred of truth included. On the other hand those who do not engage in petty gossip themselves aren’t likely to believe it about others but instead reserve their thoughts based on their own personal experiences.

    Ultimately those who initiate untrue gossip must live with the consequences themselves and it is not for the rest of us to judge but to instead make certain that we conduct ourselves as The Clement does.


  5. Carol

    Defamation is so rampant, that reporters tend to go with a story before checking the facts. They put things out there that if untrue, can destroy or make a person’s life really tough. The rules of reporting that should guide what appears in print or on the news are nonexistent with the internet. Anybody can write anything which is a terrible thing especially for kids subjected to cyber bullying. It’s such a waste of one’s capacity. I agree with Coco here. I think everyone has to face up to their actions and the negative approach leaves it’s mark. I’ve known people who have indulged in this sort of behavior and they’re not held in the same esteem they once were. It’s sad because they don’t realize what they’re doing to themselves let alone their target. They’ve forgotten their first love. I will take your questions and description of the Clement to heart Gregg.


  6. Joy

    Ah Gregg what a wonderful opportunity you provide for me today to examine my heart relative to what you’ve so eloquently outlined. It seems to me that it all boils down to whether I truly want to extend the blessing of my birthright into the world, or if I just want to give lip service too it. We, I believe, are all called to overcome the world, for me specifically I see that I still have some honest and earnest work to do in overcoming the trap of the counterattack, the comforter and the rubbernecker, and to the Clement I say with a deeply thankful heart…”Blessed are they that come in the name of the Lord” what a wonderful day to be vigilant and to move onward and upward to join The Clement. Thank you Gregg.


  7. David R

    I don’t believe we have a record of anyone who expressed anything of significant worth who was not attacked and defamed for it. Such is the perverse nature of the world as it has become, and consequently it is essential, as a part of character development, to learn to handle cowardly unfairness with understanding and equanimity. There is always pain involved, and the associated issues can be complex and unpleasant, but in the midst of such situations, the truth is exactly what it is. That is ultimately what matters, what is real, and what will carry the longer cycle.


  8. Beth C

    Forgiveness and generosity are the best protection from an onslaught of venom, whether we are the target or a bystander. Though the venom may ruin things in our vicinity, our hearts can be free. Why relinquish this right?


  9. Coco

    Character assassination is as old as fallen mankind. The Bible is full of the injustices to the Prophets, Jesus and many of his disciples. When Jefferson lived it was one of the main weapons used to sway public opinion. Reading either period’s accounts it is incredibly sad to see the opportunities that were missed for mankind as a result of this cowardly method of spreading hate. When reading about past instances or witnessing current ones I feel charged to constantly remain vigilant to let forgiveness rule what I hold in my heart. It doesn’t change the transgressions nor untwist the result; but it does allow the perpetrators to deal directly with our creator and the innocencent to be surrounded by the power of love. There is a moment when this type of behavoir can be discouraged; don’t be the one that denies or follows afar off as the hate is beginning to recruit it’s agreement. There is a stand required in each heart and I believe we will be judged by our Creator on how we use this capacity of free will.


  10. Kai Newell

    This is such an intriguing consideration. Whether it has been having my eyes opened to historical injustices, current world injustices, personal attacks more close to home, or just tuning in to the gossip drama on TMZ, I can say I’ve held a post at varying degrees of the whip of reaction. But the one position that comes clear of the whip and actually has potential to help the situation is that of The Clement. I appreciate the points for a very thorough personal meditation this morning!


  11. Isabelle

    What an astute list and great follow-up questions, of which I have a few thoughts below:

    1. With most defamatory injustices in the world around me, I have sought to help ameliorate the effects for either myself or those around me. Being in the marketing field, my goal has been to help to reveal the righteousness of an individual through online efforts. In my experience, “fighting” or “meeting the attack point by point,” only adds fuel to the fire and really serves no useful purpose.

    2. It is important in a situation like this to continue to be yourself and express the highest that you know. Most likely, there may not be a way to control the aggressor. However, you can control your own reaction to attack. An angry or defensive reaction complicates the matter.

    3. As I have personally experienced unjust defamation and that of those whom I love, I know how difficult it can be and I have learned a valuable lesson. I will always question the motives of those who seek to slander or defame others as it is a cowardly approach. In particular, the structure of internet provides a cloak for cyber-bullies, where they can hide behind anonymity verses honestly seeking a resolution for their angst. Those who are mature, kind and pure of heart would never resort to judgment or condemnation of another and it is wise to question anyone who does.


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