It is not by accident that the Torah describes the creation of the world with speech. With our speech we have the power to create and destroy, to inspire and degrade, to support and to undermine, to judge and to give the benefit of the doubt. Everyone has at one time or another put their foot in their mouth, and seen the consequences.
When someone is allergic to peanuts they take amazing precaution to not be affected. They sometimes will not even go in the same room where peanuts are being eaten, lest they have a catastrophic reaction. Their precaution is warranted because of the severity of the allergy and the great sensitivity of the human body.
Imagine if we all were sensitive to gossip, slander, lashon hora, and realized the great pain that was brought into the world through our speech. Some say, “Hey, there is NO WAY I can change, or even do a good job at this stuff.” Well, if you were allergic to peanuts, could you say the same thing?
Here is a meditation that I say: Lashon Hora is bad for the Jews and anything I can do to remove myself from it will make me healthier and in turn makes the Jewish people healthier.
TEN RULES OF LASHON HORA
Removing Lashon Hora from our lives means removing negativity, insinuation, scorn, and gossip from our speech. Jewish tradition forbids one to denigrate the behavior or character of a person or to make a remark that might cause physical, psychological or financial harm. If you follow these ten rules you will see peace blossom in all your relationships.
1. Don’t convey a derogatory image of some one even, if it is true.
2. A statement that can ultimately causes someone physical, financial or emotional harm is also lashon hora.
3. It is lashon hora to recall past embarrassing incidents.
4. It is lashon hora even when you incriminate yourself as well.
5. Loshon hora cannot be communicated in any way, shape or form.
6. Speaking against a group as a whole is a particularly severe offense.
Harmful remarks about children are also loshon hora.
7. Lashon hora can’t be related to close relatives, including one’s spouse.
8. Even if every one knows – you shouldn’t repeat it.
9. Distance yourself from gossip because it causes animosity between people.
10. Avoid listening to lashon hora and gossip. If you inadvertently hear lashon hora, don’t believe it’s true. Instead, give the person the benefit of the doubt. Assume the information is inaccurate or that the person does not realize they are doing something wrong.
NOTE: There are times when lashon hora is permitted or even required, i.e. when warning a person about potential harm. However, secondhand information and baseless impressions have momentous implications. When in doubt – wait five seconds and think of the implications of what you are saying. Maybe you don’t need to say anything? Those five seconds can save lives.