“If one of your friends tells you that another person is speaking ill of you, do not become defensive about what you have been told. Instead reply, this person must not know the rest of my faults otherwise he would not have only mentioned these.” – Epictetus
In addition to being a pithy retort to a friend reporting gossip to us, the reminder that we typically have way more faults than anything anyone speaking ill of us could bring up stands to remind us how little their opinion really matters. It also serves to remind us that we still have a long ways to go in achieving the standards we have set for ourselves.
In fact, it is a good mental exercise when we encounter people gossiping about us to think about all of the things they could possibly have said about us. The list will be long and difficult to face and that is only the stuff we are aware of and the stuff that is true. We all know that gossip is never limited to the truth.
In addition to using the list to remind us that it could be worse, the quick list of all of our faults is a helpful reminder that it’s no one’s business. We all have lists of faults. That’s why this exercise is universal. Literally all of us have laundry lists of ridiculous shortcomings. Including the person speaking ill of us, in fact speaking ill of others is a pretty big shortcoming.
It also happens to be one we have no control over. People are going to speak ill of us. That’s part of the game and we have no control over it. The most we can do is focus on what we can control and make people who will speak ill of us liars as well.
virtus fortis vocat