Monday, September 30, 2013

On the other hand!

image from
Today's Chofetz Chaim:

I'm having a harder time with this one.

If someone is on the receiving end of harm, and you observed it, you are not allowed to tell.  Nope, you are not.

Unless, that is, there is a reasonable chance that telling will serve a constructive purpose.  However, "constructive purpose" is very narrowly defined as the likelihood of restitution or the imminent possibility of further harm from the same quarter.  When restitution is unlikely and you can ascertain that the victim is not vulnerable to further harm, you must hold your tongue.  Since nothing positive will come of tattling, revealing what you know is still considered unwarranted gossip.

I get it that if you're pretty sure that no good will come of telling, then telling is simply gossip.

On the other hand, we westerners have a deep-seated desire to know who done us wrong.  If we were the victim and someone else saw the bad guy, we'd want to be told.  We don't like letting people get away with things. Oh, and we like to plot retribution, hold grudges, make sure the perp gets his due.

And even if not restitution, if we tell, won't the perpetrator learn something valuable about his behavior when people look askew at him, ostracizes him even?   And when the community sides with the victim, won't it thereby restore a bit of the value and dignity that was stolen from the victim when the perp disregarded the victim's feelings, rights or needs?

On the other hand - we Jews have so many hands, just ask Tevya - such  gossip is sure to stir the pot, creating rancor in the community.  Turning community member against community member. Promoting judgment before understanding. Seeing, after all, is not the same as understanding motive or circumstance.

Perhaps the Chofetz Chaim felt we should not rush to judgment, or that peace in the community holds the higher value.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

When Gossip is Good

MY NEW YEARS RESOLUTION. The Jewish New Year just happened - I want to study the Chofetz Chaim, the primary Jewish texts on the impact of speech written by Rabbi Israel Meir Kagan. Rabbi Kagan's ideas are universal and not specifically Jewish, so I hope some of my Facebook & blogger families might like to study with me. I'd love stories, conversation and opinions that support or differ from the Chofetz Chaim. 

Today's thought: 

There are circumstances when it is permissible to tell someone about gossip going around about them. One circumstance is when to do so would help open a person's own eyes to a bad situation (e.g. behaviors impacting relationships or work, or when they are thought to be the victim of abuse), enabling him or her to improve their own lot. However, if you're pretty sure that the person either does not have the emotional strength to act on your information, or is not ready to act and so will refuse to "see" what is being shared, then we are prohibited from relaying the gossip. The reason: Even when your true intention is to help, if no good will come of it, it is still "just gossip."

Read more about the Chofetz Chaim by clicking here