Friday, June 20, 2008

words can hurt

i've never claimed to be perfect, but i do consider myself a 'good girl'. i have never smoked a cigarette, tried drugs or done anything (too) non-shomer with a guy. i almost never drink (see post on Cosmos at weddings) and have only gambled once (i put some quarters in a slot machine - nope, didn't win though :( ). maybe i sound like the typical frum girl, but in the 'outside' world, beyond the frum bubble, you dont find too many women my age like me.
but there is something that i did that i feel terrible about. here's my confession.
i went out for coffee with some friends a couple of weeks ago. nothing harmless. we even stuck to the kosher selection at Starbucks and ordered those teas they have there that actually have real hechshers on the box. so we sat around on that rainy evening, sipping our chai, when this guy walked into the cafe. as soon as he picked up his order and walked out the door, we turned to one another to dish all the dirt that we had on him.
We all knew him, but not well. What we did know were things that were pretty negative. Very negative. Not just about him, but about his entire family. Gossiping can be fun, especially when you're the one saying something that others have not yet heard. And sometimes during a conversation like this you say "oh, I really shouldn't say this, its SUCH Lashon Harah", but of course, you still say it, because it's pretty rude to keep friends hanging. Right? Wrong?
At the end of the convo, we were all left with a very negative impression of this person and his family.
Some few weeks passed, and that's when I heard the worst thing I could ever hear.
It was Shavuos and one of our family discussions at the lunch table was about fasting on holidays. A guest of ours mentioned that you were permitted to fast on Shavuos if you did something reallly bad and wanted to do tshuvah, and in fact, that fasting in such a case would be encouraged. For some reason, that thought stuck with me as I sat through the endless courses served by my Jewish mother.
And then....during dessert, as I was about to start away at the fabulous cheesecake I had baked, another guest brought up the fact that someone he knew was very, very ill. The person who was sick was the father of the guy I had seen at Starbucks. The one that we had spoken so horribly about. I couldn't eat the cheesecake.
I know that people get sick. It's a fact of life. This father had been sick before, and this was a relapse. But, somehow, I felt and still feel somewhat responsible. I finally realize that words can hurt.


frumhouse said...

Yes, words have power. However, I doubt any of you were consciously wishing for the boy or his family to get sick. You feel guilty for speaking loshon horah about these people, and it sounds like you are on the road to teshuvah.

Perhaps you and your friends can do something proactive like offer to help the mom with babysitting or errands during this rough time. Maybe you can arrange some meals for the family among your friends if the mom is not up to cooking or at the hospital.

To me all these would be better alternatives than feeling overwhelmed with guilt or even fasting. However, it speaks to your thoughtful nature that you have thought about your actions and their effects to this degree.

Alex30 said...

this is a problem that exists in the orthodox comunity, you can know EVERYTHING about others. for me it is one of the worst things about the orthodox communities. i can understand why it happens and i know i wouldnt be better but still, it is something that always makes me feel sad!
now maidel, what can you do? in reality not much as you still want to go to starbucks with your friends, but you CAN refrain from telling loshon hora even if it might make you less popular! you have more than enough fans here that think you are great and loads of fun \\ //

Lion of Zion said...


i'm not sure if i'm reading you correctly or not, but (imho) words don't have that type of power, so it is irrelevant what she was wishing for it (consciously or unconsciously). she can feel guily if she wants to, but not for that specific reason.

the rest of your comment seems right on target.