The Evil Tongue

In Hebrew, gossip is called “lashon hara“…basically, the evil tongue.  When my mom would overhear me and my friends gossiping, she would admonish us, “Lo lashon hara!” (Don’t gossip) to which we would always yell back, “EMET!” (Truth).   To our young minds, gossip wasn’t gossip if it was true.

Fast forward a few years.  Rumors about who likes who has elevated to who is cheating on their spouse.  Stories whispered about who got their period (GASP!) have matured to stories about who is pregnant, who is not, and who can’t become a mommy.  Complaining about our unfair allowances is now equated to fears of credit card debt, lay-offs, and unemployment.  In high school, gossip could seemingly ruin your life.  But now, repeated mentioning about marital problems, financial woes and infertility really can RUIN YOUR LIFE.

It used to be that I LOVED when I would get a phone call that started, “You will never believe…”  I would settle down into my bed or chair, excited and full of hope for a fun anecdote.  Sad, but it is true.  I don’t know if I realized what it meant to hear about other people’s sorrows, secrets and sadnesses.  That repeating these stories, true or not, was contributing to a reality that someone wasn’t hoping to share with all of the junior class.

Recently, a friend of mine went through a very real tragedy.  It was all over the news, because the other person involved is considered to be “famous”.  (I put that in quotes because I think fame is subjective.  I would write more here about why this person shouldn’t be famous, and Gd do I want to, but that would be GOSSIPING. I am still learning.)

Anyway, she received 300 calls in one day.  From “friends” worrying about her well-being, I’m sure.  Word spread like wild-fire, and the versions of the event that came back to me were so convuluded that I was scared for her future.  Mostly because the stories all consisted of lead-ins of things like, “My friend XXXX is really good friends with YYYY, and she knows that this is the story.”  Trust me, I am YYYY’s very best friend.  She is not good friend’s with XXXX, nor has she discussed the event.  But if XXXX is spreading anything, that is just not okay.

I can’t change the XXXX’s in the world, but I can change me.  I no longer want to be in the XXXX position, you know?  (Perhaps X wasn’t the best letter to use here, I can only imagine the people looking for XXX-rated things and ending up on a post about lashon hara!)  On the surface, it might be nice to be on the up and up about stories, but if that is why people are talking to me, then I am not worth anything.  Seriously.

There is very little difference between repeating lashon hara or emet. I’ve come to realize, either way, that is not worth it to venture my credibility, or someone else’s peace of mind, to make for a good phone call.  Even if the “evil” is really, really good.

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3 responses to “The Evil Tongue

  1. Thanks for giving us something to think about. While I was teaching I didn’t like hanging out in the teacher’s lounge because of all of the gossiping. But since I’ve been away from it all I admit to getting a perverse thrill (just continuing on your XXX rating) when a friend in our neighborhood calls to let me know the latest “news.” Which doesn’t happen often (I have some really great friends) but you’ve reminded me there are times where I am crossing that gossip line.

    P.S. Don’t worry about people stumbling onto your site looking for XXX things. It’ll be good for them to learn a thing or two about lashon hara!

  2. I am terrible when it comes to gossip. I love to talk. And I talk to much. To me, leaving things unsaid feels almost like lying. And so I talk. When I shouldn’t. Then, I regret it. I am always worried that I said too much.

    It’s definitely an area of my life I need to work on.

  3. I agree! It is hard for me, too…Especially when it comes to things/people I am closest to in my life. Why should I keep my mouth shut if I feel like it will help? But not everyone holds the same philosophy. It is hard.

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