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The Laws #21

To Damage One's Personal Standing

The Chafetz Chaim explains that as it’s lashon hara for me to damage you in terms of your financial standing or reputation, so too it’s lashon hara if I say words that damage you in terms of your personal standing.

So for instance, if I tell someone that you are not smart, that explains the Chafetz Chaim, is lashon hara. Why? Because saying a person is not smart is a very real derogatory expression. If you’re not smart people aren’t going to hire you, people aren’t going to marry you or want to marry into your family, people are not going to want to deal with you. It takes a person and lowers them dramatically. So if I tell people that you’re not smart or you’re not talented or you’re not accomplished, automatically that’s damaging and automatically it’s lashon hara.

Even if it’s true. Let’s assume for a minute that in fact the person I’m speaking about isn’t of average intelligence. Let’s assume they’re below average intelligence and I’m really telling the truth, they’re really not smart. Explains the Chafetz Chaim, that may be true, but it doesn’t make it not lashon hara – that’s exactly what makes it lashon hara! By definition, for the words to be lashon hara they have to be true. So if in fact you’re really bright and I say you’re not smart, then it’s not true what I’m saying, it’s motzi shem ra, it’s not lashon hara. If you’re not smart and I tell people you’re not smart, that’s exactly when it’s lashon hara.

Explains the Chafetz Chaim, any words that I say that damage you, your reputation, your standing, whether it be in a global sense, whether it be in a local sense, if it changes the way people look at you as a person, that’s lashon hara and it’s fully forbidden by the Torah.

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