Slander, detraction, and backbiting

I have a bad habit of speaking ill of people when I am with my mom. I start out as merely “venting” but it soon escalates into revealing fault after fault of the person who I am venting about. I always feel guilty about it but I still continue to do it.

Can someone offer some insight into the line between just venting about someone who has annoyed you and the sin of detraction? Or is the venting in itself the sin of detraction since it inevitably involves revealing the faults of others?

Venting to a family member isn’t detraction because you’re seeking comfort and validation.

Three things are necessary for detraction to be a mortal sin, along with the three requirements for mortal sin in general (grave matter, full knowledge, full consent):

  1. You must be telling the truth (otherwise it’s calumny).

  2. You must be revealing something hidden (a celebrity scandal, for example, would not be detraction because it’s not hidden).

  3. You must be doing this with the primary intention of harming a person’s reputation.

Here are some things you can do to help avoid detraction:

  1. Point out a person’s good qualities and insist on those good qualities if a name is dropped. “Susan’s habit of lying is really causing problems because I can’t trust her” should be followed up with something like, “but I care about her very much because she has been a very good friend to me.” This shows that you are trying to solve a problem, not perform character assassination.

  2. Keep a person’s identity private as much as you can. For example, asking for advice online about a family member can be concealed behind “my mother” or “my uncle,” or simply “someone I know”; we won’t know who you mean personally.

  3. Simply make sure that you are speaking out of a place of concern and not a place of railing against a person’s reputation or seeking revenge, and you will be just fine. :slight_smile: Detraction, because of the gravity of the sin, means you will know when you committed it, because you will literally want to bring harm to the person by revealing a hidden sin, and that would be the primary motivation. Venting to friends/family, seeking advice or validation, etc, absolutely do not count, but we should make sure not to vent so much that we sound very negative or run the risk of not seeing a person’s good qualities (because that could lead to detraction…not seeing a person’s good qualities could very well lead to not wanting them to have a good reputation and thus trying to injure it).

I hope this helps! :slight_smile:

Malicious gossip is indeed among the worst of habits. Beware the practice of “venting” one’s anger to others.

Thank you. This helps a lot. God bless.

You’re very welcome! I’m glad I was able to help you. God bless you as well!

Saint Michael, the archangel, defend us in battle, be our defense against the wickedness and snares of the devil, may God rebuke him, we humbly pray. And do you, O’ Prince of the Heavenly host, by the power of God thrust into Hell Satan and all the other evil spirits who prowl about the world for the ruin of souls.


Our Father who art in Heaven, hallowed be thy name.

Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven.

Give us this day our daily bread.

And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.

And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.


Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee.

Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb Jesus.

Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death.


What Abiding in Love stated was very good. But, my in own life when ‘venting’ I have to then go an actually pray for that person I ‘vented’ about. I am not talking about someone I ‘detracted’, or gossiped, because I try very hard to avoid that, although goodness knows I’m capable of gossiping. A horrible horrible sin.

When you need to ‘vent’ or do what my bff calls a ‘reality check’ about someone, pray for that person. They really need it. And ask your guardian angel to pray for you.

God bless you and your tender soul.

Yes, you are so right. Thank you for this. God bless.

Thank you all for your prayers and input. I guess I’ll go ahead and raise a related question: What exactly constitutes gossip? I have a general idea of it but am fuzzy on the details.

Abiding in Love, if you have some insights, that would be great…

Catholic Culture defines gossip as: “Idle talk, especially about others. The morality of gossip is determined by the degree to which time is wasted in useless conversation, by the failure in justice or charity committed against others, and by the damage done to people’s reputation by those who gossip.”

If you are avoiding damaging a person’s reputation, your odds of avoiding gossip, calumny, slander, and detraction are very good. Slander covers both calumny and detraction, as they are both forms of slander. Gossip is a gateway to slander. They can easily be nipped in the bud if you find the good in others and remember your own faults and struggles. :slight_smile:

Another great post, thank you so much!

You’re very welcome! I’m glad I could help. :slight_smile:

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