He that speaks ill of another, commonly before he is aware, makes himself such a one as he speaks against. ~ John Selden

Evil speaking means speaking ill of others.


  • A doctor might as well stand with his saddle-bags and scatter their contents through the community as a man tell all that he knows about people indiscriminately. Medicine is to be administered carefully. It is the work of skill to properly administer it. It is to be given according to the constitution, temperament, and condition of the patient. And truth, being a medicine, instead of being thrown about heedlessly, and indiscriminately, and with brutal barbarity, is to be administered with care and discretion.
    • Henry Ward Beecher, "The Duty of Living Peaceably", in The Original Plymouth Pulpit: Sermons of Henry Ward Beecher (1873), p. 14.
  • Abandoning false speech, the ascetic Gotama dwells refraining from false speech, a truth-speaker, one to be relied on, trustworthy, dependable, not a deceiver of the world. Abandoning malicious speech, he does not repeat there what he has heard here to the detriment of these, or repeat here what he has heard there to the detriment of those. Thus he is a reconciler of those at variance and an encourager of those at one, rejoicing in peace, loving it, delighting in it, one who speaks up for peace. Abandoning harsh speech, he refrains from it. He speaks whatever is blameless, pleasing to the ear, agreeable, reaching the heart, urbane, pleasing and attractive to the multitude. Abandoning idle chatter, he speaks at the right time, what is correct and to the point, of Dhamma and discipline. He is a speaker whose words are to be treasured, seasonable, reasoned, well-defined and connected with the goal.
  • It is our duty never to speak ill of others, you know; least of all when we know that to do so will be the cause of much pain and trouble.
  • The man recovered of the bite,
    The dog it was that died.
    • Oliver Goldsmith, The Vicar of Wakefield (1766), Ch. 17, An Elegy on the Death of a Mad Dog, st. 8; reported in Josiah Hotchkiss Gilbert, Dictionary of Burning Words of Brilliant Writers (1895), 0p. 215.
  • Evil speech kills three peoplethe one who says it, the one who accepts it, and the one about whom it is said.
    • Maimonides, Laws Concerning Character Traits, Chapter 7, Section 3
  • It is forbidden to dwell in the vicinity of any of those with an evil tongue, and all the more to sit with them and listen to their words.
    • Maimonides, Laws Concerning Character Traits, Chapter 7, Section 6
  • Remember that the first step in spirituality is not to speak ill of others. All human beings have weaknesses and faults. Yet they are all God in their being. Until they become Realized, they have their imperfections. Therefore, before trying to find faults in others and speaking ill of them, try to find your own weaknesses and correct those.
  • He that speaks ill of another, commonly before he is aware, makes himself such a one as he speaks against.
  • Hear no evil, and see no evil, abase not thyself, neither sigh and weep. Speak no evil, that thou mayest not hear it spoken unto thee, and magnify not the faults of others that thine own faults may not appear great; and wish not the abasement of anyone, that thine own abasement be not exposed.
  • To persevere in one's duty and be silent is the best answer to calumny.
    • George Washington, letter to William Livingston (December 7, 1779), reported in Theodore Sedgwick, A Memoire of the Life of William Livingston (1833), p. 343.

Dictionary of Burning Words of Brilliant Writers (1895)

Quotes reported in Josiah Hotchkiss Gilbert, Dictionary of Burning Words of Brilliant Writers (1895).
  • Keep clear of personalities in conversation. Talk of things, objects, thoughts. The smallest minds occupy themselves with persons. Do not needlessly report ill of others. As far as possible, dwell on the good side of human beings. There are family boards where a constant process of depreciating, assigning motives, and cutting up character, goes forward. They are not pleasant places. One who is healthy does not wish to dine at a dissecting table. There is evil enough in man, God knows. But it is not the mission of every young man and woman to detail and report it all. Keep the atmosphere as pure as possible, and fragrant with gentleness and charity.
  • If there is any person to whom you feel a dislike, that is the person of whom you ought never to speak.
  • Never throw mud. You may miss your mark; but you must have dirty hands.
    • Joseph Parker, p. 214.
  • We cannot control the evil tongues of others; but a good life enables us to disregard them.
  • And so the blasts of calumny, howl they ever so fiercely over the good man's head, contribute to his juster appreciation and to his wider fame. Preserve only a good conscience toward God, and a loving purpose toward your fellow men, and you need not wince nor tremble, though the pack of the spaniel-hearted hounds snarl at your heels.
  • Is the scrupulous attention I am paying to the government of my tongue at all proportioned to that tremendous truth revealed through St. James, that if I do not bridle my tongue, all my religion is vain?

See also

AltruismAsceticismBeneficenceBenevolenceBraveryCarefulnessCharityCheerfulnessCleanlinessCommon senseCompassionConstancyCourageDignityDiligenceDiscretionEarnestnessFaithFidelityForethoughtForgivenessFriendshipFrugalityGentlenessGoodnessGraceGratitudeHolinessHonestyHonorHopeHospitalityHumanityHumilityIntegrityIntelligenceJusticeKindnessLoveLoyaltyMercyModerationModestyOptimismPatiencePhilanthropyPietyPrudencePunctualityPovertyPuritySelf-controlSimplicitySinceritySobrietySympathyTemperanceTolerance

AggressionAngerApathyArroganceBigotryContemptCowardiceCrueltyDishonestyDrunkennessEgotismEnvyEvil speakingGluttonyGreedHatredHypocrisyIdlenessIgnoranceImpatienceImpenitenceIngratitudeInhumanityIntemperanceJealousyLazinessLustMaliceNeglectObstinacyPhilistinismPrejudicePretensionPrideRecklessnessSelf-righteousnessSelfishnessSuperficialityTryphéUnkindnessUsuryVanityWorldliness

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