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Q: Today I accidentally and publicly said a very mean thing about a friend. I shouldn’t have said the thing in the first place, but it was supposed to be just to friends but accidentally was posted publicly. Thank God a different friend was looking out for me and told me that I made it public and I quickly removed it. I have no clue if the friend I said this about saw it, but I do not think she did. Anyway, now that the backstory is out of the way, I feel crazy guilty about this. What should I do in this situation? Thank you so much in advance and God bless! -P.W.

Fr. Edward McIlmail, L.C.

Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC

A: It is a good sign that you feel bad about what you did; that shows your conscience is working.

The sin of detraction can be serious, because it can ruin one of the precious things a person has: his good name.

The Catechism mentions detraction in two numbers, which I quote here:

2477: Respect for the reputation of persons forbids every attitude and word likely to cause them unjust injury. He becomes guilty: […]
— of detraction who, without objectively valid reason, discloses another’s faults and failings to persons who did not know them;
— of calumny who, by remarks contrary to the truth, harms the reputation of others and gives occasion for false judgments concerning them.

2479: Detraction and calumny destroy the reputation and honor of one’s neighbor. Honor is the social witness given to human dignity, and everyone enjoys a natural right to the honor of his name and reputation and to respect. Thus, detraction and calumny offend against the virtues of justice and charity.

So what to do? If the detraction was serious, it would be good to go to the Sacrament of Reconciliation and confess it as soon as possible.

If the young woman finds out about the posting, you might consider a personal apology to her. If the posting was widely seen, then you might look for ways to make up for it somehow. This can be extremely difficult, however, since gossip travels far and wide and very fast.

At the very least, you could draw a lesson from this incident. It would be good to resolve never to post anything negative about anyone ever again.

On the positive side, it would be good to cultivate the habit of speaking only of positive things of other people. Do that, and you will do a great service to your friends and family and acquaintances. Social media is full of detraction — we Christians are called to bring a different message to people.

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