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April 19, 2014 / 19 Nisan, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘Positive Word Power’

The Truth Always Wins Out

Friday, June 15th, 2012

Dear Dr. Respler:

When I read your May 25 column, Making Peace With Your Mother-In-Law, I started to cry, as I knew that the letter signer (Heartbroken Daughter-in-Law) was my daughter-in-law. We always discuss your column, and I guess it was her way of delivering a message to me.

Now here’s my side of the story. Other than acknowledging that I am the mother-in-law in that column, I will not supply any other details, so that no one will be able to identify me. Before the ballgame my daughter-in-law referred to, I was diagnosed with cancer. My situation has the doctors in a quandary. Some want to operate; others are opting for radiation/chemotherapy. They all agree that since it is early-stage cancer, surgery is preferable; however, due to my other health problems, they are uncertain that I would survive the surgery. Therefore, they are leaving the decision to me.

The diagnosis came shortly before the situation concerning the ball game. My husband got another ticket since I said that I had never been to a ballgame and wanted to experience one before I died. As death is on my mind all the time, I was so upset that I forgot to tell my daughter-in-law not to come with the kids (as she usually does when our husbands go to ballgames) – assuming that she would be understanding of my request. She was shocked when she arrived with the kids. For my part, I was so upset with my entire situation that I probably did not handle her reaction too well. You’ll remember that my son was upset and went home with his wife and kids, missing the game. When he came over the next evening we invited him to dinner, since we wanted to discuss my medical condition with him alone. He invited his wife to join us, but I was not yet ready to tell my daughter-in-law. So we informed our son about my situation over dinner, begging him to keep this secret.

When reading the column, I realized how much pain I had caused my daughter-in-law, who I truly love. Only then did I understand how confused she was by my behavior. When I immediately called her and told her what was going on, she began to cry. Then she invited us to come for Shavuos.

I’m writing this letter after an amazing Yom Tov. My daughter-in-law prepared an incredible amount of food (she made all of my favorites), with all kinds of surprises. She tried so hard to make me feel special, and is saying extra Tehillim on my behalf. Many rabbanim to whom we’ve spoken have given us brachos and have told us not to go public, since a nes nistar (hidden miracle) is preferable to hoping for a nes galui (open miracle). Thus we’re being urged to keep my health situation a private matter.

I know that when you often write about onas devarim (hurtful speech), you always mention the book, Positive Word Power, by the Chofetz Chaim Heritage Foundation. I realized that I engaged in onas devarim in the way I treated my daughter-in-law.

Thank you for running my daughter-in-law’s letter. I hope you run mine as well so people will know that there was another side to this story. (It will also help to improve our level of communication.) I wish to reiterate that I really love my daughter-in-law and have apologized for any pain I caused her. She is very upset about my circumstance, and with the love she has shown me I don’t know why I did not tell my son and daughter-in-law – together – about my plight.

I hope Hashem helps me overcome my situation.

Anonymous

Dear Anonymous:

Your letter was truly heart wrenching.

When I ran your daughter-in-law’s letter it did not fully make sense to me, as I knew that I was missing part of the picture. So I asked her to speak to you in order to better understand the full picture.

Your painful story has taught me the importance of knowing the other side of a story. Yehudis Samet wrote one of my favorite books, The Other Side Of The Story, in which she attempts to help people find a way to dan chavercha lekaf zechus (judge others favorably) in cases of miscommunication. I often recommend that book to others. Your story, in fact, highlights how we often don’t completely understand a given situation.

The Hazards Of Onas Devarim

Thursday, February 2nd, 2012

Dear Dr. Respler: I will never forget the following situation that happened to me in high school: Some of the boys picked on a boy who behaved inappropriately, causing the boy to feel terrible about himself. The rosh yeshiva, hearing about the situation, spoke to a few boys separately. I was one of those boys.

My rosh yeshiva made a hand motion to me, demonstrating a knife used to stab someone in the back. He kept telling me that my words were like a messar shnite (a knife that cuts). He said that when a person says harmful words, the person is basically stabbing someone in the back – an action that can cause lifetime damage.

The rosh yeshiva told me that I had a choice to make: either I abide by his disciplinary measure or I would have to leave the yeshiva for a while. He told me that since we finished learning early on Friday and went shopping for our Shabbos needs, I would have to shop for the boy I harmed. The intention was for me to befriend this boy, not just at the yeshiva but also on my personal time.

Today I am a married man with children. I will never forget this story, and to this day I admire my rosh yeshiva for taking such a tough stance regarding the poor middos that I displayed. He taught me to never hurt other people through what I now see as his brilliant lesson. I was forced to gain this young man’s friendship by serving him, thereby helping him in a respectful manner. This was my way of having to do teshuvah for my poor behavior. The way my rosh yeshiva dealt with my situation ultimately made me a better person.

I hope my story will help parents and people in chinuch take a strong stance with their children and students on the issue of bullying. This will help young people make amends for their wrongful acts. It will help repair the damage they’ve caused – in the same manner that my rosh yeshiva helped me.

I will forever be grateful to him. Anonymous

 

Dear Anonymous: I appreciate your letter, and your willingness to share your amazing story with my readers. I hope the rosh yeshiva’s lesson helps parents and educators deal more successfully with their children and students in similar circumstances. It is true that harmful words can damage people for life. Children and adults sometimes do not realize the damage they can cause with their words – verbalizations that can destroy a child’s self-esteem. I often tell people that a joke is only a joke if two people can laugh at it. If a person does something painful to someone else and other people laugh, but the person who is being humiliated is enduring deep anguish, the joke has no value. Rather, such a “joke” or prank is destructive, and is categorized as onas devarim.

As a teenager you probably did not realize that your behavior toward your classmate fell into this category.

The Chofetz Chaim Heritage Foundation’s excellent book, Positive Word Power: Building a better world with the words you speak, addresses all forms of onas devarim. It is a daily study guide to help people learn the practical halachos.

Onas devarim is verbal assault, and causes pain to another through the use of harsh, angry or insensitive words. The Torah, in several ways, prohibits this type of hurtful speech. The first is the commandment, “Lo sonei ish es amiso – You shall not aggrieve your fellow” (Vayikra 25:17). Rashi explains that this prohibition is directed at the words we use in our personal relationships. This act is totally prohibited, offering no allowance for inflicting even the slightest pain for the briefest moment, unless there is no other way to accomplish something important or constructive. Harsh words also violate this Torah mandate: “Ve’ahavta lereiacha kamocha – And you shall love your fellow as yourself” (Vayikra 19:18). Certainly people would not desire such treatment for themselves. Finally, the embarrassment onas devarim may cause violates the Torah’s unequivocal prohibition against shaming others. (This paragraph is from an edited version from the aforementioned book).

As a big fan of this book, I often recommend it to couples and individuals who I am treating. The purpose is to help them work on various relationships. Unfortunately, we all sometimes struggle with onas devarim.

As human beings we sometimes fail by using hurtful words to the people we love the most, namely family members. Your story about bullying in school should be a constant reminder that many schoolchildren struggle with this problem. I have published many articles on this topic in order to confront the bullying issue and to encourage principals, teachers, and parents to take a strong stand against this behavior. Your letter exemplified what a mechanech (educator) can do without causing pain to the other party. You deserve a big yasher koach for going against the grain and trying to better yourself by taking your rosh yeshiva’s advice.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/family/marriage-relationships/the-hazards-of-onas-devarim/2012/02/02/

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