Q: To my dismay, I transgressed the awful sin of lashon hara, slandering a family member. After the fact, I regret my words and wish to repent but I am uncertain how to proceed. If I approach the family member directly and tell her what I said about her, she will be deeply hurt even if no harm came from my words.
If I ask for forgiveness in general, she will no doubt forgive me. Still, the latter option leaves me worried that if she knew what I said she would not forgive me so easily. What am I to do?
A: Since you transgressed the sin of lashon hara, you must “correct” the damage that was done with your words by tracking down the listener and making an effort to eradicate the words from her heart, undoing the negative impression your story made on her. Methods that can be employed are: explaining that you took the facts out of context, exaggerated, etc. The listener should eventually realize that there was no negativity involved in the actual happening. Additionally, you should appease the subject of your talk. If asking forgiveness is likely to upset or hurt her, it is sufficient to ask for forgiveness in general (Mishnah Berurah, 606, 103).
Additionally, you must go through the steps of teshuvah: remorse, admitting and accepting upon yourself to be meticulous regarding the laws of lashon hara in the future.
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