Shmiras Haloshon Yomi
SEFER CHOFETZ CHAIM
Laws of Loshon Hora 10:14
A Necessary Review
We have learned in the previous segment that if someone has been hurt by another party and he can reclaim his loss or prevent further hurt by telling others of the incident, he is permitted to do so. The Chofetz Chaim begins this segment by stating:
“However, one must be extremely careful with this license, that none of the seven conditions mentioned above be omitted. For if he will not be extremely careful, he will easily be trapped in the snare of the yetzer hara and through this license, he will be counted among those whom the Torah considers baalei loshon hora. Because of this [danger], I will review all seven conditions with a bit of additional comment.”
The Chofetz Chaim then reviews the seven conditions:
1. One must have first-hand knowledge of the negative incident. Otherwise, says the Chofetz Chaim, one cannot be certain that the alleged perpetrator is really the guilty party! If one has second-hand negative information to relate l’toeles, he must make it clear that his words are based on hearsay.
2. One must be certain that he is interpreting the facts correctly. The Chofetz Chaim states that this is probably the most difficult condition of all (where one has been hurt personally) because people’s perceptions are usually subjective. He warns, “One never sees himself as guilty; each man thinks that his way is correct. If he stumbles in this [and speaks against someone who is, in fact, innocent], then he is guilty of hotzaas shem ra (slander), which is worse than loshon hora.”
3. If there is a chance that the culprit will heed rebuke, and it is likely that rebuke will not make matters worse, then one must first speak to the subject privately and attempt to convince him to right the wrong on his own.
4. There can be no exaggerations and no detail may be omitted if it casts the culprit in a somewhat better light. Sometimes leaving out a small positive point of the story makes the culprit appear worse than he actually is.
5. One’s intentions must be purely l’toeles, for a constructive purpose. In cases where one has a personal interest but the negative information is necessary to protect others, he should speak to a rav for guidance in how to proceed.
6. If one can effect a solution without resorting to loshon hora, he must choose that route. The Chofetz Chaim adds here that if it is possible to omit certain negative details and still accomplish the constructive purpose, then those details should be omitted.
7. One must be certain that the report will not cause the culprit any damage which is not sanctioned by halachah.