You are sitting at a wedding and some people at your table begin denigrating someone. One person turns to you and says, “Didn’t you go to school with him? Was he always this way?”
Now you are faced with a test. Will you attempt to change the topic, or do you succumb and add your piece of loshon hora to the conversation?
A difficult test? Perhaps. But it will surely be made easier if you give thought to the following advice from the Chofetz Chaim.
Take stock of what you are about to do. If you remain strong and refuse to speak loshon hora, there may be people who will consider you self righteous — something that anyone would want to avoid. On the other hand, if you falter and speak loshon hora, you will have much more to deal with, for you will face embarrassment in the World of Truth, before the King of all Kings, Hashem.
The Chofetz Chaim quotes the teaching of our Sages: “Better to be considered a fool your entire life than to have Hashem think of you as a rasha (wicked person) for even a moment.”
The Chofetz Chaim adds that it is precisely regarding such situations, where one feels pressured to speak loshon hora and does not succumb, that our Sages say, ”For every moment that a person closes his mouth [and refrains from speaking loshon hora] he merits a hidden light that no angel or earthly creature can fathom.”
In this segment, the Chofetz Chaim teaches us about non-verbal loshon hora, the type we refer to as “body language.” As we all know, a wink of the eye or a twitch of the nose can sometimes communicate major statements about someone’s personality or behavior. Such communication carries the full halachic weight of the prohibitions regarding loshon hora. Written loshon hora is also included in these prohibitions.
In concluding this opening chapter, which discusses common misconceptions about loshon hora, the Chofetz Chaim notes, “Even if you include yourself when denigrating someone, you have still spoken loshon hora.”
It is important to note that this type of loshon hora is forbidden even if the reputation of the speaker is also damaged. Including oneself in a derogatory remark does not make it permissible.