Speak not evil one of another, brethren. He that speaketh evil of his brother, and judgeth his brother, speaketh evil of the law, and judgeth the law: but if thou judge the law, thou art not a doer of the law, but a judge.     James, 4:11                                                                        

    The above statement is such an amazing concept that was told and recorded in the Books of past ages, which was written and advised 2000 years ago, but humanity is still dwelling in the same plane of social existence, all people are still backbiting, the difference may be in the degree and intensity of backbiting.  Men are repeatedly making mistakes, and we never learn from the past, and we want to live even though we have tasted that it is so sour and very disturbing, but we still want to speak evil of others. Why is that, all human beings do like backbiting and will be too?  It is not a lie and such a fact that cannot be denied, no person on earth, who has a free will, is free from speaking ill of others.  People backbite being in pairs, in three and others do it publicly.

   I believe that backbiting starts from oneself, in which there is a talking between and within oneself, and this talking when it reaches to its higher form, it goes out to another person, and will manifest itself in a different form, as the dictionary defines it as backbiting, whose impact, as we all know is strife and divisive, hate and enmity and all other evils. The backbiting with oneself does not have any outer consequence but its higher form of manifestation leads to disaster.

   What is the root reason for backbiting?  Is it because of our own limitation in which we are involuntarily imposed, we cannot live with out it or it is because we could not oppress our desire and control our passion.  As Albert Einstein said:  Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I'm not sure about the former. But he is sure about the stupidity of human beings that men wish evil for one another. Or there must be another element which is the cause for backbiting that we should really work hard before we abolish backbiting, a cause and an effect approach, once we are done with the cause, it may be easy to eradicate the effect, as Francis Descartes said, Each problem that I solved became a rule which served afterwards to solve other problems. We could not do better in more than 2000 years for we still bite with words which burns one’s heart and creates complication in one’s life, it is a voiceless and ironless spear which harms and hurts every body.  It is so funny that every one of us has a good experience and we have tasted what it means to be backbitten, but still we are in the same circle. Sometimes, I wonder, there might be a hormone, which exerts an influence on oneself to be in such an attitude, if so and if it is natural, there is no thing to worry about it, for it is not our fault.

   Why do we backbite others?  Time and again, we have been repeatedly advised and told by many Great Teachers of the planet, about the evilness of backbiting in many ways, whether with plain words or else in parables, but we could not manage, and we are still attached to those poisonous words which spoils our personality, and the strange thing is, we deep inside enjoy it. Is it an everlasting opium or what, that we could not detach ourselves from such an evil? Why do we speak of evil of others, what is the reason, is it because we hate or love, or we do not know the reason? All people whether they are educated or not, black or white, man or woman, child or adult, all human do practice it, it is a universal evil and problem, which may need universal remedy. Many people knew that it is so painful, but they are still doing it, why? Does it have its own special power beyond us? Why is it survived for many years? Who is the first person that commenced backbiting? May be the first man who was given a tongue?  Is it related with human tongue, or with the human heart? If it is not outwardly manifested we do not know who is backbiting and what is backbiting too.  Can we change our means for communication to a different form that does not allow people to backbite? It seems backbiting has a higher form of conversation or relationship with in self.  And it seems that the words that are used for backbiting reside near the tongue, for it is so fast to speak of bad about others.  

   It is interesting that many people backbite whom they like and hate, and they do it for both conditions.  It is obvious that when one hates other, it is very hard to see the good part of the one hated, but we may try to see with different eye which cannot be equal to the one we use to whom we love, probably, we may become so hypocritical.  There is a modern way of backbiting people which may go like this, “do not tell this thing to others, it is highly confidential, or secret, Mr.…. is like this or that, blablablalala,” Ms.… is like this….”.  It is also interesting to see how things evolve due to civilization, and we live in an age where backbiting has changed its form, instead of using tongue, now it uses mind and hands with the help of a computer, through the internet, people backbite people.  The definition of backbiting has to change which should be not only speaking evil of others but also chatting in MSN or any computer chatting program, evil of others.

    Any form of conversation by whomsoever communicated, as far as it is speaking of bad of others, there is no reason that it can not be backbiting, whether it is practiced by Pope, Sheikh or Prime Minister or President or Journalist or Doctor or whoever else.  Sometimes when we get accustomed to an environment, which may be bad or good, it is very hard to detach ourselves from that situation, since we are somehow adapted to it, we feel comfortable. In such a case we may tend to assume that even though it is wrong we assume it as right and we just continue with the practice and it happens to be “informally legitimate”.  And the same is true for Backbiting, it seems that it is becoming normal and accepted among the norm, which is indeed so bad. There are a number of unwritten laws formulated by society that serve as means of regulating activities and movements of people so understandably and help the members of a society to communicate smoothly without referring to any codes.

   One of the reasons, why we are backbiting, it is because we are irresponsible and neglectful of the effects and outcome it is creating in the healthy community life.  The existence of Backbiting in any society implies the decline in moral values of that given society, which implies “death”.  The moment that any given society starts this evil whispering, the angel of death is getting a good place, which will ultimately lead to negativity.  At this point that given society has to perish or reborn in values.  Man as a social animal needs strong and health bond to live with one another, and this bondage should have strong foundation, which could not be shaken by any impediments that may cause to destruction. Community life is mainly based on mutual trust and understanding.  Never in the history of mankind that the unity of people is founded upon backbiting, it is impossible to have composition like that, it is like allowing water and fire to dwell in the same container.  Backbiting is a disease that resides in every individual heart, which affects community life, and creates distrust among the individuals and ultimately leads to chaos.  

    It is good and preferable to listen to the words of Great individuals who walked on the earth like Benjamin Franklin who said, the heart of the fool person is in his mouth, and the tongue of the wise person is in his heart.  Some times it is not even safe to talk about good of people which may lead to or end up by talking something negative about them, and it is better to remove oneself from discussions like this for we do not benefit from this kind of conversations, and rather talk about events and ideas that brighten and widen our understanding.  Albert Einstein said: Great people discuss ideas, moderate people discuss events and small people discuss about people; which I believe is the best principle that humanity can practice and measure the value of any person.  It is better to live good life than a bad one.  It is not our education, wealth, social status that makes us a great person, but rather it is our characters and deeds that certify our true reality.

   It is strange to say that Backbiting has some good aspects, for people practice good deeds from the fear of being backbitten.  Reputation is a hidden and manifested desire in any human being which may vary depending on the degree of the want of individual. Backbiting can be true or false in character, but the main nature of it, is we speak of a matter that the doer does not want to be told or wanted to keep secret or we may fabricate a story that may harm the personality of the individual, and speak to others in his absence. In order to keep their reputation in any given society, people are forced to behave by the standards of the norm and it assists to keep the balance of any given society to be at “normal temperature”.

 Backbiting is divisive, it is the leading cause among the friends of a disposition to withdraw. If any individual should speak ill of one who is absent, it is incumbent on his hearers, in a spiritual and friendly manner, to stop him, and say in effect: would this detraction serve any useful purpose?                  ‘Abdu’l-Bahá

 Written by Dereje Amera

The views reflected in the above article  are solely of the author and are not necessarily shared by Meskot.  You may contact Dereje Amera  for comments at .