Lashon Hara and Guilt

Ok, so I posted yesterday on lashon harah. Last night, I was wondering: Where is the line between lashon harah and venting? I think it is crucial to one’s emotional health to vent sometimes, but at what point does it transform from an emotional necessity to an emotional luxury, a sort of getting satisfaction from putting down another who has harmed you (which perhaps violates the Biblical injunction not to take revenge)?

I don’t think these questions apply in the case of therapy, because no matter what you say, that is professional and confidential venting. I am also unsure if it applies in the case where you vent regarding person A, to person B, who has no idea who A is and will never meet him/her. It becomes much murkier however, when it is not at a therapist’s office or a situation like the one mentioned above.

In addition to general venting, there is a specific type of venting I call guilt-venting: Person A hurts you. You react in a guilt-inducing way. In order to alleviate your guilt, you vent to someone, and in the process wind up recounting what A has done – or badmouthing A just to prove to yourself how justified your actions were, to assuage your guilt. In the end, this venting is pointless, because having another person tell you that you did not do anything wrong, won’t actually rid you of the feeling of having done something wrong – only you have the power to do that.

To me, guilt-venting is the type of venting that veers most easily into lashon hara. It just goes to show how guilt is a double-edged sword: Sure, without it, its possible you would never view any of your actions as wrong or try to improve yourself. At the same time, however, too much guilt can lead to more negative actions and be an impediment to self-improvement – in part, because if one is constantly overwhelmed with guilt, one can not have the confidence that is essential to a happy, fulfilled life. This just goes back to Rabbi Dr. Abraham Twerski’s point, about how proper self-confidence is a prerequisite to properly fulfilling the Torah’s commandments.

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