Jane McViper is a methodical woman. For one thing, she likes to draw up lists. She was on hand for the usual bridge party at the home of one of the “girls,” where she decided the time had come to discuss the latest gaucheries of the abominable (but absent) Mabel Deerhardt. Jane ticked off one by one the lamentable failings of her victim. The girls enjoyed her presentation immensely. Jane was delighted to see tears of laughter flowing down the cheeks of some of them.
But as Jane was driving home, she began to feel disquieted about shredding Mabel’s reputation. So at home she sat down and wrote at the top of a sheet of paper the following heading: Advantages and Disadvantages of Character Assassination. After scribbling furiously for an hour, she read to herself what she had written.
1 I can make enemies by criticizing others.
2 Criticism of others is an unproductive waste of time.
3 I can get to the point where even my close friends won’t trust me. They could believe that when they’re not present, I’m doing the same kind of job on them.
4 Running down others can make me proud. Some people present today may conclude that I criticize others because I have a very high opinion of myself. Therefore:
5 I might have made a fool of myself.
6 I’m making it harder for myself to love others. The next time I see Mabel, it’s going to be almost impossible for me to be nice to her. In fact, I’ve probably made it difficult for our whole group to be nice to Mabel.
7 If I don’t soon begin to say something pleasant about others, I can get to the point where I’ll be incapable of seeing any good in anybody.
8 I have committed a sin, and if I want to be forgiven, I’ve somehow got to take back what I’ve said about Mabel.
1 Criticizing others makes me feel good all over.
2 I get a wonderful feeling of superiority out of criticizing.
3 The biggest advantage when you run someone down is that you run yourself up.
She then read her two lists again, slowly and thoughtfully. She put a big question mark after advantage #1. “I don’t really feel good all over,” she muttered.
She then crossed out entirely advantage #2. “How silly can you get!” she said.
She looked at advantage #3 for a long time and then put a question mark after it. “It’s at least debatable. After all, even I don’t think highly of character assassins.”
Then, she wrote the following on a third piece of paper: Resolution designed: 1) to make Jane McViper a more lovable, humble, useful, and considerate person, 2) to prevent her from spiritual disaster: STOP BEING CRITICAL OF OTHERS!