The Laws #16

A Bad Influence

To say over a fact that a person has bad character trait is lashon hara. However, explains the Chafetz Chaim, there is a time when it’s permitted. Let’s assume I have children or I have students and I want to warn them not to associate with a certain individual. In that case I’m not intending to harm that person’s reputation; I’m intending to help the people I’m speaking to. Explains the Chafetz Chaim that that is not lashon hara, quite the opposite it’s l’toeles, it’s for constructive person and it is a mitzvah appropriate and proper to do.

However, he explains, if I’m doing that I have to firstly make sure that I’m right, at least that I have good reason to suspect this person has a temper or he’s a bad influence or whatever it may be. In addition to that, explains the Chafetz Chaim, I should tell my students or my children, whoever it may be, that I’m telling them this fact for their good and they shouldn’t think it’s lashon hara. Explains the Chafetz Chaim one of the great difficulties is that children model their behavior after their parents. If they see me speaking lashon hara they’re going to learn from it. So if in fact I feel they shouldn’t associate with a certain person or with a certain group of people because they have bad character traits or whatever bad influence they may have on them, I should make sure to explain to them that I’m telling them these facts and it’s not lashon hara because it’s for their benefit, it’s for their good. That way I’ll protect them from the bad influence and I also will not teach them to speak lashon hara.

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