Monday, February 2, 2015

Reputation - #MondayBlogs

The Yiddish term for a person who enjoys gossiping about others is Lashon Hora – it doesn’t matter if the gossip is true or false, if it will do harm to the person (humiliation, career, physical, etc.) then it is considered morally wrong. Legal terminology for false defamation of character is slander (spoken) or libel (written).

In our secular world you can get away with talking “trash” so long as you have the facts to back it up, but why would you? Why would a person go out of their way to cause emotional harm, or worse, to another? Perhaps it was anger that made someone expose “secrets” either true or false; what else would they do out of anger? Gossip, trash talk, lashon hora hurts the target just as a fist would, so how can we excuse that behavior when we know how wrong it is?

Perhaps I am being too lenient when I say there MAY be legitimate reasons why a person would utter harmful words just as we can sometimes excuse the person who strikes another in genuine self-defense. Remember though that the legal definition of self-defense includes the key words “the use of reasonable force to protect”. Defending yourself from a vicious verbal assault or an untrue accusation may mean sharing information about someone else even though that might harm their reputation. Again it is the use of a REASONABLE counter attack that might be justified (in my opinion).

We all gossip, even those who are staunchly against all forms of lashon hora, it’s human to say once in a while, “hey did you hear about…”; the difference is the motivation, the intensity and the veracity. There is no excuse for telling falsehoods about innocents. Most of us talk about the people we know and the things we hear as normal chit-chat among friends. Unfortunately too many people are not aware of overheard conversations in public areas and the unintentional damage that can cause. It’s also too easy, like the game of telephone, when that news we share gets translated and twisted, even if accidentally, until it becomes an untruth.

The next time you talk about someone else think of your motivations, the “ears” around you, and certainly think about any potential harm your words may cause – and then think about keeping those words to yourself.

"Sticks and stones may break my bones,
but names will never hurt me"

It just ain’t so!

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