Q: My friend confided in me regarding her son and daughter-in-law, whose behavior is not giving her much nachas. She was very pained and I felt it was important for her to pour her heart out to someone. Therefore, I assumed that it was correct for me to listen to the negativity. In an effort to calm and encourage her, I confided, “Don’t think I don’t have issues with my children. Daily, I deal with my daughter’s unrealistic expectations for her wardrobe, which often disturbs the atmosphere in our home.” My friend, who had assumed my family was the picture of perfection, was comforted by my words.
It later dawned on me that this may have constituted lashon hara about my daughter. Does my disclosure, which was meant to calm my friend, constitute a constructive purpose, or was it forbidden to relay the negativity about my daughter?
A: The heter of to’eles applies when the information will be helpful regarding that particular incident or topic. Some examples are to help someone who was wronged, to rebuke a wrongdoer, etc. There is, however, no heter to describe to someone how you have been wronged in order to help them with their problems or comfort them.
You may mention an incident, without names, to calm your friend. A variation of your words can be, “I know a mother of a beautiful, large family, whose children are, baruch Hashem, successful. Very few people, though, are aware of how much trouble her daughter is giving her with requests for outlandish clothing.”
It therefore seems that your words constituted lashon hara, and you should do teshuvah through charatah, viduy and kabbalah al ha’assid.
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