On Humility and Good Name by St. Francis de Sales
1. Humility cannot renounce its good name.
Now, since humility cannot permit us to have any desire
of excelling or of being preferred to others, it cannot
permit us to seek for praise, honour or glory which are
due to excellence alone. Yet humility readily falls into
line with the counsel of the wise man, who admonishes us
to take care of a good name (Eccl. 41), because a good
name is an esteem, not of some excellence, but only of
an ordinary and plain uprightness and integrity of life.
Humility does not prevent us from recognising this in
ourselves, nor, in consequence, from desiring the
reputation for such. It is true that humility would
despise a good name if charity had no need of it; but
because it is one of the foundations of society, and
because without it we are not only useless but harmful
to society, by reason of the scandal thereby given,
charity requires and humility assents that we should
desire a good name and carefully preserve it.
2. But we should not be too preoccupied by it.
We must not, however, be too eager, exacting and
punctilious in preserving it; for those who are so
touchy and sensitive about their good name, resemble
those who take medicine for every little ailment; for,
thinking to preserve their health, they utterly ruin it;
and in like manner, those who are so sensitive about
keeping their good name, lose it entirely, for by this
touchiness they become capricious, obstinate and
unbearable, and provoke the ill-will of calumniators.
3. To despise calumny is a good remedy against it.
Disregard and contempt of injury and calumny is normally
a far better remedy than resentment, wrangling and
vengeance; contempt causes them to disappear; if we
resent them, we seem to avow them. Slander hurts none
but them who fear it.
4. We should prefer virtue to reputation.
First, because it is worth more, and secondly, because
calumny and injury help rather than hinder us in the
path of virtue.
5. A distinction of note.
We must give up this idle intercourse, this useless
practice, this frivolous friendship, this foolish
intimacy, if it be injurious to our good name, for a
good name is worth more than empty satisfactions of any
kind; but if we are blamed, chided, calumniated for
practising piety, for advancing in devotion and for
progressing towards our eternal good, let us leave these
curs to bay at the moon.
6. Some exceptions.
I except, however, certain crimes so atrocious and
infamous that no one ought to suffer the false
imputation of them, if he can justly clear himself; and
certain persons, upon whose good reputation depends the
edification of many; for in this case we must tranquilly
seek the separation of the wrong received, according to
the opinion of theologians.
An Introduction to the Devout Life, Pt. 3, Ch. 7.