Portrait of a Suspector

Portrait of a Suspector
(San Lazzaro, 1847)

Suspicion is such an incurable illness that the suspector likens it to prudence. He sees in every one of his frivolous suspicions a prophecy, thinking himself precautionary. For it is not enough that the suspector is tormented by his own suspicions, he also takes it out on others, and his suspects do not know what to do to deliver themselves from his absurd suspicions.

            The suspector does not have solid friendships, for his friends all frighten of him when they sense his lack of trust in them. He does not think that his suspicions about you are palpable, even though he exudes them verbally and physically. And should you indicate to him that you sense his suspicion, he throws a fit. What a contradiction… He makes his suspicions known to you, but then does not want you to know about them. But don’t you dare suggest to him that his suspicions might not correspond to reality, for then he will proceed to lecture you to no end: “you are naive”, “the world is a bad place”, and so on. “You can never be too suspicious about others,” he'll say, but does not want anyone to be suspicious of him. If everyone were to suspect one another as he does, the whole world would turn into a den of brutes: everyone would keep a safe distance from each other, and it would be the end of civil society. Better to avoid casting doubts on a tried-and-true friend, even if it means being cheated from time to time, than to inflict vain suspicions upon him. Yet to the suspector, every apparent act of virtue is self-serving: There is no such thing as an act of elegant virtue or an action intended to please God, for the suspector does not realize that God and one’s soul are of paramount interest to the wise, for which they would sacrifice everything else.

Rather, the suspector thinks that everyone else sets aside his own affairs at his expense. He asks what they are saying about him and why they are laughing at him, by which he becomes risible even to his subordinates, who realize that others are more interested in other matters than in him, but cannot convince him of it. If you happened to travel somewhere out of necessity, the suspector asks if you got a chance to visit some other nearby place while you were there, putting it in your mind that you needed to go to that place. He suspects his subordinate of thievery so much that he inadvertently teaches him how to steal. If even his own son honors him, he thinks it is because his son has an eye on his wealth and is waiting for him to die. If you call him over and say “come, have a seat”, he suspects you of having an ulterior motive and starts to pace. He has his shoes made of cork, so that nobody can hear his steps when he's approaching. And he does not dare to undertake a thing if he foresees danger, for he does not realize that inaction itself can put man face to face with the gravest dangers. He considers as impetuous and imprudent all those who lead active and hard-working lives.

            Finally, suspicion is such a malady that it even makes the man who is adorned with all virtue detestable. That is because the suspector attracts suspicion unto himself. It is true that whoever is afflicted with an illness of character thinks others have it, too, as with the proud man thinks others are proud; the glutton, who lives to eat, and cannot believe that others eat to live; and the envious man who fancies that he is the subject of everyone else’s envy. Now if the suspector attracts suspicion to himself, it is because the illness of suspicion lies in his heart (though virtuous people may of course suspect others from time to time). But out of all of these illnesses, only the suspector suspects others of also being in possession of traits that he himself does not possess.

            As to what an unfortunate thing it is to have an innocent person be the subject of wrongful suspicions, we see from the example of the mother of the prophet Samuel (1 Samuel 1). This poor lady had come to this world with the desire to bear a child, and had hoped for a male son whom to dedicate to God. One day, while praying in the temple for a long time—unable to speak, weeping in anguish, her eyes full of tears—Eli the priest grew suspicious of her, thinking that she must be drunk, and went to her and said: “How long will you be drunk? Get out of here!” The poor lady immediately got up to leave, with such a response as to move Eli’s heart to pity. Then Eli said: “God be with you, and may He grant you what you have asked of Him.” And it came to pass that this was fulfilled, for she went on to give birth to the prophet Samuel. This example shows how suspicion skews man’s judgment, which is why the ancient pagan poets had the following saying:

            Of suspicion beware,

            Lest your judgment err.


Popular posts from this blog

In Defense of Civilization

Learn Classical Armenian!

Movses Khorenatsi's History of the Armenians