Monday, July 18, 2011

The Evil Tongue

"That's why Hashem gave us two lips to keep our mouth shut tight 
and two lobes to keep our ears from hearing things not right
.. no loshon hora..."

I was taught at a very young age about the moral restrictions of Loshon Hora. As a child, I knew it wasn't a nice thing to speak badly of others. I thought I understood why it was bad and to my innocent eyes, it seemed like a nice idea for there wasn't much bad to say about others anyways. If I ever was surprised to hear Big People saying mean things about someone else, my teachers had an answer--educational purposes excused it all. It was that simple. And if I ever heard something that didn't seem to be for educational purposes, I would make it my duty to let the sinner know he just said Loshon Hora. But as I grew up, i realized there was a lot that could be said about people and that most people in my surroundings didn't care not to hold it back.

So as a teenager, I rebelled against the Halachos that pertained to speaking to Loshon Hora.
Why did the Torah need to tell us EVERYTHING we are supposed to do? Yes in the role of a perfect teenager, I considered myself intelligent for thinking against my teachers that most of the Halachos were just superfluous way to ensure we didn't enjoy our lives. Even during seminary, I refrained from accepting laws about something that simply was unrealistic and not respected.

It took me a few years to understand exactly what Loshon hora was truly about.

 First, my mother was brave enough to try explaining to me that people aren't perfect and that I simply cannot reject what I was being taught because of what I might have witnessed. I realized that some Halachos come up when relevant but Loshon Hora is one of those that never leaves. It is a constant effort. Even if incorporated in our behaviors at a very young age, it takes lots of grandeur to always adhere to the rules of Loshon Hora. And frankly, today I cannot say it has gotten easier. The more independent my thoughts and ideas get, the more I am prone to criticize my opponents. But having being taught Loshon Hora all my life, I can at least admit that my awareness in the matter is consequential.

I also came to realize how much speaking Loshon Hora hurts you, perhaps even more than the person you are speaking about. You allow yourself to express negativity. Refraining from thinking bad about people is hard enough, but once you get used to speaking it out loud, you might get trapped in the ugliness of belittling. It's interesting, but when my close friend and I discuss topics that involve people, I am less keen on calling it Loshon Hora because i know them well enough to translate their emotion into their experience. Their point in sharing isn't simply for the conversation and perhaps to build me up against a person. It is to share their feeling/grief or whatever it might be, so they can work it out. And true, often an outside opinion helps in viewing people more favorably.

But when someone I know less is speaking Loshon Hora, I struggle to remain objective for information gets lost in translation. That's Loshon Hara. The harm it does, the negative vibes it brings up such as having to make a conscious effort to not let what I hear effect my respect for a person; having to re-frame certain opinions and re-think certain considerations.

I have never ceased to be disappointed in hearing people I respect speaking Loshon Hora and I have to make a conscious effort to remind myself they are only human. I can only hope many more will come to realize the true nature of belittling and not simply the Halachos associated with it.

1 comment:

  1. Could not agree more. Stopping to speak loshon hora was one of the best decisions I ever made. It made me a better person.