Misrepresentation the act of wilfully representing a thing otherwise than it is. We ought to be careful not to misrepresent the actions of others; and we should, with equal solicitude, avoid any misrepresentations of their words. Verbal misrepresentations may be productive of the greatest injury, and are indicative of radical malevolence. Words, in themselves, and taken in their insulated state, are capable of diverse meanings; and he who reports any impressions without noticing what went before, or what followed after, may easily pervert the most harmless into the most criminal expressions; or cause the foulest inferences to be drawn from the most innocent discourse. What confusion and inquietude in society, what suspensions of confidence, what interruptions of good neighborhood, what bitterness and animosity, are occasioned by verbal misrepresentations! How often has the fondest love been 'thus blighted, and the warmest friendship turned cold! The perverse construction, the imperfect repetition, or the mutilated statement of what others have said, is one of the common expedients which the artful and treacherous know so well how to employ to serve their own sinister ends, to promote their own interested views, and to produce endless feuds, inextinguishable jealousies, and irreconcilable animosities. As the words of men may thus be misrepresented to serve the most mischievous purposes, it earnestly behooves us, on all occasions, when we repeat the discourse of others, to adhere as closely as possible to the words, and never wilfully to deviate from the sense. We ought to beware of stating that to have been designed as a positive declaration which was intended only as a casual supposition; we are not to represent that as a literal affirmation which was meant only' as an incidental illustration, or as a figurative ornament; for it is possible in this way to render an exact copy of the words, and yet a malicious perversion of the sense. But when we report what others have said, and particularly when the interest of the individual is in the least degree concerned in the fidelity of the representation, we are not only to repeat the expressions that were used, but the sense in which they were at the time designed to bear, and which was evident either from the context of the discourse or from the manner of the speaker. SEE TRUTH.
By subtle queries, invidious remarks, and treacherous insinuations, the slanderer infuses doubt into the mind of one respecting the integrity or the conduct of another; and thus he often effects his purpose with more. safety than he could by a more open and direct attack.
Thus he gradually but surely undermines the reputation of his neighbor, or supplants those who seem to stand in the way of his own advancement. As secret is more dangerous than open hostility, so the characters of men are often more irreparably injured by calumnious suggestions than by unreserved and unqualified calumnies. Sometimes slander is covered under the garb of praise, but then the praise is never bestowed except where it is likely to prove injurious to the person, by the aversion which it occasions, or the jealousy which it inflames. We all have many faults, but the slanderer aggravates them by his description. Regardless of adherence to truth, he distorts and magnifies whatever he relates. Where the habit of falsehood, as in the base calumniator, is joined with a malevolent disposition, venial defects are magnified into criminal atrocities; and a trivial speck, almost too small to be noticed is spoken of as an incurable ulceration. The malevolence of the slanderer is never willing to balance the vices with the virtues, the defects with the perfections of the human character; but he censures and condemns without moderation or indulgence. Men cannot insure the effect which they intend, the issue of their actions, or the success of their exertions. We may deserve. but we cannot command success. Good endeavors and honest efforts are in our power, but the ultimate event is in the hands of God. But when things go wrong, when good endeavors are frustrated, and pernicious effects issue from good principles or meritorious attempts, which could neither have been prevented nor foreseen, then how apt are men to impute the unexpected effect to deliberate contrivance, and to slander the intention which they ought to praise! Thus, those who are ever ready to calumniate what merits praise, impute the good which follows any particular action to chance, and the evil to design. See Fellowes, Body of Theology, 2:324-329. SEE SLANDER.