Dealing With Detraction


What are you supposed to do when somebody is telling you the faults of another person? This is driving me nuts because I am so confused about what to do.

Today at work a co-worker was telling me the faults of an ex co-worker after I asked him about a price sticker’s identification letter because the sticker had the wrong price on it. I tried to say positive things about the ex co-worker who was being detracted.

As I did not intend to get sucked into detraction, I could be wrong, but I would think that I am still okay. In the future, should I keep up my tactic on saying positive things, or should I try another approach?


Tell him “Oh well! (He/she) is gone now, so it really doesn’t matter now.”. Then firmly redirect the conversation elsewhere. He will get the hint after a couple times.

Remember too, you are not responsible for his sins. You do your best to manage your behavior in spite of his choices. But when push comes to shove he alone is responsible for his behavior.


I think you handled it well. Do what you can to hint that you are not interested in participating in gossip, and leave it at that.

As long as you don’t nod and show your approval or participation, you’re fine. If you feel comfortable verbally communicating that you don’t want to gossip, do that.

Google the “9 ways to participate in another’s sin”.


Thanks for the replies! :slight_smile:

I looked it up and I noticed that one was “participation”. I did not want to partake in the detraction, but I was a bit surprised when he first started telling me the ex co-worker’s faults and I think I said something along the lines of “Really?!” I’m not quite sure if that constitutes as participation or not. :confused:

However, I know for fact that I did not hit any uncertain ground in regards to participation later, as I tried my best to defend the ex co-worker, such as suggesting he probably just made some mistakes.


You did well to point out that person’s positive things.

And, sometimes just remaining silent suffices.


It’s not wise to talk about ‘not so great things that people you know have done’ when your avatar is a picture of you.


Think of it: if someone talks about others, more than likely they talk about you, too.


Is it still detraction if the complaints are true?


You can’t be culpable for participating at first because it took some time for you to realize what was happening. Culpability for participating in another’s sin is only possible when you are aware and willing the sin, just like anything else.

Looks to me like you’re fine on this one.


Detraction is the damaging of another’s good name by the unnecessary revelation of some fault of which that person is truly guilty, or which the speaker at least believes to be truly guilty.

Calumny is the same, with the distinction that the speaker accuses someone of something UNTRUE. This is definitely worse, since you’re making something up to hurt someone.


From what the Catechism says, it’s the undue revelation. So if there’s a good reason to reveal the fault like you say to a friend that the person they’re considering as a baby sitter is a registered sex offender, there’s a just reason to reveal that. But if you went up to a random stranger and said the same person was a registered sex offender, that’d be detraction because the random stranger really isn’t bettered by hearing that 99% of the time. I’m not sure where the defining line is though, which makes a case like this where you’re hearing the faults of a coworker difficult to determine.


DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit