Uprooting Derogatory Speech
Tazria (Leviticus 12-13 )
Speaking negatively about someone is an action that caused a such a high level of impurity that during Temple times the sinner would form a visible malady, called tzaraat, and be required to stay completely outside of the living quarters whilst repenting and healing.
Why such serious consequences for just a few words?
Chaos theory describes how a small change in one state can result in large differences in a later state. Like the butterfly flapping its wings in one country and causing a hurricane somewhere across the globe.
What may seem like a few harmless words, perhaps not even spoken maliciously, can potentially cause long lasting and irreversible damage to the individual, or individuals spoken about. Due to the speed and widespread of social media today, words, like feathers released in the wind, once let out, are often very difficult, if not impossible, to retrieve.
It is easy however to talk about not speaking negatively, and to have this as an ideal, but practically, how is this something that we can ensure? Speech is such a huge factor of our day to day life, the chances of slipping up in this area, and the temptations are huge...
Often to cure the symptoms of an ailment, one must find their cause. Once the root of the problem is treated, the symptoms will lessen automatically.
What then underlies negative speech?
Speaking Lashon Hara, derogatory speech, can be a symptom of many things.
Our viewpoint – One needs to see bad, to speak bad! A change of lens can result in a change of speech. Choose to see the good in people, and to judge favourably.
Low self-esteem – The need to push someone down to springboard oneself up. If one works on one’s own self-esteem, others successes will not negatively impact his own.
Lack of humility – If one feels superior to others then it’s easy to talk badly of them. Work on appreciating everyone’s greatness.
Carelessness – A simple lack of thought as to what might happen as a result of the forthcoming statement, or thinking about how we would feel if we were the subject. Use imagination to picture the ripple effects of your words, and/or to put yourself in their shoes.
Once we have identified what is causing our negative speech and worked on the relevant traits surrounding it, the desire to speak lowly of people should dissipate, resulting in a world where the only ripples created are positive and beautiful.