Thomas à Kempis (c. 1379-1471) was a priest of the Canons Regular of Windesheim in Holland. He took part in the Church renewal movement known as the “Brothers and Sisters of the Common Life,” who sought to imitate the life and virtues of the early Christians. This excerpt is taken from his most famous work, “The Imitation of Christ,” which is quite possibly the world’s most popular Christian spiritual book after the Bible.
My child, says Our Lord, stand firm and trust faithfully in Me when someone speaks against you. For what are words but wind? They may fly through the air, but they never hurt a stone on the ground.
If you are guilty of accusations leveled at you, consider how you would gladly change your ways. If you are not conscious of any fault, remember that you should gladly bear this slander for the sake of God. It is little enough for you occasionally to endure hastily spoken words, since you are not yet strong enough to bear hard blows.
Why do such small matters pierce you to the heart, unless it is because you are still worldly and pay more heed to pleasing other people than you should? Because you are afraid of being despised, you are not willing to be reproved for your faults. Instead, you search studiously and busily for excuses.
If you examine yourself more closely, however, you will learn that the world is still alive in you, and a vain desire to please others. For when you shrink from being rebuked and punished for your failings, it is plain indeed that you are not truly humble or truly dead to the world, and that the world has not yet been crucified to you (see Gal 6:14).
Listen to My word, and you will have no need to worry about even ten thousand words of others.
Look: If every false and malicious accusation that could possibly be invented were uttered against you, what harm could they do if you ignored them all and let them pass away? Truly, no more hurt than a straw under your foot. Such words could not so much as pluck one hair from your head!
Whoever does not have a stout heart within him, and does not hold God constantly before the eye of his soul, is easily moved by a sharp word. But the one who trusts in Me, who refuses to trust in his own judgment, will be free from the fear of others.
For I am the Judge and Discerner of all secrets. I know how all things happen. I know who causes injury and who suffers it. I allowed those words to be spoken. I gave My permission for them to be said so that the thoughts of many hearts might be revealed when the time comes.
I judge the guilty and the innocent. But first I test them through a just examination.
Human testimony often deceives, but My judgment is true; it will stand and not be overthrown. And even though sometimes it is hidden from many and made known to but a few, yet it is always true and never mistaken. In fact, it cannot be mistaken, even though it may not seem right in the eyes of the unwise.
Whenever you are in doubt, then, you should come to Me, not relying on your own judgment. You must be content with whatever I send your way. For a righteous man will not be disturbed, no matter what may befall him.
Even if an unjust charge is made against him, he will not be much troubled. Neither will he exult vainly if through others he is justly acquitted. He considers that it is I who search the human heart and its inmost thoughts, that I do not judge according to mere appearances. For what the judgment of others considers praiseworthy is often worthy of blame in My sight.
O Lord God, most just of judges, strong and patient, knowing human frailty and malice, be my strength and comfort in all my needs. My own conscience, Lord, is not sufficient for me.
You know in me what I do not know. So I must always humble myself whenever I am accused, bearing all things patiently in charity, according to Your pleasure.
Forgive me my failures in this regard. Give me again the grace of greater endurance in the time to come. Your mercy is a more sure and profitable way to obtain pardon and forgiveness than any attempt to trust in the defense offered by my own darkened conscience.