Q: I had some arrangements to take care of in a government office, and ran into a grouchy clerk whose attitude was less than gracious. I have no idea who she is, but tried to give her the benefit of the doubt. Later, I heard from other people that they were treated in the same manner. When a friend told me she was planning to go to that office, I told her offhandedly, “Be prepared. The clerk there is very edgy.”
I then regretted my words. I’m concerned that though my friend and I don’t know this woman on a personal level, we may have transgressed the prohibition of lashon hara.
What should I do?
A: It is generally a good idea to be prepared when approaching a clerk who is easily unnerved so that one can take precautions and speak in a way that won’t trigger negativity. There is therefore constructive purpose in being aware of what kind of person one is going to have to deal with.
From the details in your question, it seems that it was permissible for you to tell your friend that the clerk is easily upset. This would constitute the constructive purpose that you probably intended, and would thus not be considered a transgression.
If, however, your intention was not for a constructive purpose, you must repent by being remorseful, confessing to Hashem, and resolving to do better in the future.
You mentioned that you heard from others that they received similar treatment. The conversations should be examined to see if they constituted a constructive purpose or if it was simple chatting. If there was no constructive purpose involved, these discussions would possibly constitute lashon hara and would require teshuvah, as mentioned above.
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The opinions expressed in this article are those of the individual author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Hamodia.