We are striving to love our fellow Jews by improving the way we interact with others.
Last week’s Stretch of the Week: Assign one person to remind you to stop when you’re about to say something you shouldn’t. This will help you not place a “spiritual stumbling block” before others so they won’t end up hearing lashon hora.
Tell yourself you will do this as a merit for someone this week to help keep you motivated.
Please allow ONE person to share her experience with this exercise for ONE minute.
Shaming Others / Halbonas Panim
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Publicly shaming another Jew is equivalent to shedding blood (since when one is embarrassed, the blood literally drains from the victim’s face). Judaism teaches us to say that “One should rather let himself be thrown into a fiery furnace than expose another person to public shame.” For example, calling people by insulting nicknames is a practice to be strictly avoided. Even a wrongdoer must not be shamed and should not be reprimanded in public since this would cause him embarrassment. Even when rebuking someone privately, we should be mindful to choose our words carefully.
(Excerpts from The Code of Jewish Conduct by Rabbi Yitzchok Silver)
Story: (based on a true story)
Last week was a two-year anniversary for me – an evening I won’t forget. I was sleep deprived from the night before, had broken my diet and my cleaning lady cancelled. I was feeling miserable. When my children marched through the door from their respective carpools, I wasn’t the welcoming mother I’d wanted to be, or anything close. I wasn’t prepared with dinner on the table so I told the kids they could play outside until I called them inside.
For some reason when I’m stressed, I take it out on my kids. They are an easy target, an outlet for my pent-up frustrations, even though I wish I had more self-control. That evening, as soon as I had set the table, I went to the door to call them inside and saw my neighbor’s son crying incessantly with my son standing next to him. Because of my bad mood, I made assumptions about my own child’s behavior which ended causing him a great deal of embarrassment.
“Yosef! Are you being a bully again? It’s not enough that you bother your little brother but you need to push the neighbors around too? Get inside the house! It’s dinner, bath, and then you’re in your room for the night!”
The color drained from the face of my 11-year-old son. Immediately I knew I owed him an apology but he obediently listened to my command, walked past me and into the house. He served himself dinner, took a shower, and went to his room.
I have to admit, I was afraid to face him. Once I had calmed down, I realized that I had embarrassed him in front of two of his friends. After a few minutes, I gathered my strength and knocked on his door.
“Yosef, I need to apologize for what I did today,” I softly said to my son. “Mommy, you didn’t even know what happened. I didn’t push him down. Another kid did and I was there to help him. When you said that to me outside, I was so embarrassed! I didn’t even want to explain it. I just wanted to leave. Why did you say that to me in front of everyone? Why did you say I had to take a bath? Why do you always say things that embarrass me in front of my friends?”
I don’t need to get into the rest of the conversation. It was painful, to say the least because I had no explanation except for the fact that I was tired and stressed out. I came to the realization that I have to be more careful with the way I speak. I don’t mean to embarrass my children. I simply don’t take their feelings into account as much as I should. Once I began to pay more attention to the reactions on my children’s faces after calling them out publicly, I started to notice that I did the same to friends and acquaintances as well. Whether it was a slight joke at someone’s expense or calling someone a nickname from childhood, I learned from reading others’ reactions how to be more sensitive. As a result, I feel I have gained more trust with my family and friends. I have also gained a better understanding of myself and the tools to help me navigate relationships more effectively, especially during stressful situations.
Discussion Question Options:
How can one be careful not to cause others embarrassment?
Do most people embarrass others out of frustration and impatience or sheer innocence?
Why do people often feel that children are numb to the effects of shame and embarrassment?
What is the appropriate action to take upon hearing someone was embarrassed by something you said?
Stretch of the Week:
This week when speaking with any child or student, make sure all guidance and rebuke come in the form of private conversation.