Q: Beginning at a young age, I’ve been writing a personal diary. I feel that writing helps me release my feelings and overcome difficulties and tests. The diary is my personal possession, and no one else reads it.
Lately, after having joined the Mishmeres HaSholom learning program, I’ve begun wondering if some of my entries are halachically problematic. I therefore would like to ask: A. Is it permissible for me to write about events which include negativity, as in, “I was upset all morning, because of So and So”? B. Can I read my journal entries, if in doing so I’m reminded of past annoying events?
A: In answer to your query regarding reading and writing journal entries:
If you’re sure that you can b’siyatta diShmaya be careful that nobody else reads your diary, now or in the future, there is no prohibition against writing negativity, especially since writing helps you release your emotions. However, because we don’t live forever and none of us knows how long we’re going to live, it would be proper to plan that you’ll go through the diary and erase all the negativity, so that those who inherit your possessions won’t transgress by reading and believing lashon hara. It is also proper to write a note on the cover of the diary, warning others that they have no permission to read the negativity therein.
In regard to your second question, if it is permissible to read past diary entries, you must be careful of the prohibition of ‘Lo Sitor – do not hold a grudge,’ because you’re bringing up past hatred and anger, and sometimes even reinforcing it. It is therefore advisable that while you reread the diary, you work on judging favorably all those who angered you, and even jot down the limud zechus in the margins. You will thus reap the dual benefits of not transgressing the prohibition of Lo Sitor, and fulfilling the mitzvah of B’tzedek Tishpot es Amisecha, among other great mitzvos. This conduct will serve as a conduit for bringing Hashem’s loving-kindness to rest upon you.