Forgiveness for Lashon Hara


I did something very bad. For many years, I spoke lashon hara about a friend (who I am referring to here as Friend B), but she doesn’t even know it. What happened was I was telling Friend A negative things about Friend B, who lives in another far away city, all without revealing her name, thinking it was okay because these two people don’t know each other and would never meet. All I was doing was venting. How wrong could I be? Turns out, Friend A is moving to friend B’s city and now they will be neighbors within several blocks and there is a strong chance they will meet each other, given the Jewish community there is small and they have common interests that might lead them to a friendship with each other. And I’m sure once they do meet, it won’t take long for Friend A to figure out the woman she meets is my Friend B. Friend B has no clue I said all these bad things about her to friend A.
What should I do now? Should I tell only Friend A, the only one who knows now, that she might soon get to meet Friend B, and to disregard everything I said about her, all while keeping this secret from Friend B, who doesn’t know any bad was spoken about her? Or should I finally reveal to Friend B that I was saying such horrible things about her all these years to Friend A whom she is likely to meet and ask for forgiveness?
Just so you know, Friend B is not a bad person. I still love her very much. She just has some issues that have driven me crazy for so long, and I just felt the need to vent to someone. I never imagined that the person I was venting to, keeping her identity secret, might end up meeting her.



  1. What an Halachically interesting dilemma! According to the Halachos of Lashon Hara it is permissible to “vent” to another person if it will help you overcome any negative feelings that you have. Of course, the Halacha is not quite that simple – you can vent but only as much as you need to and no more. Anything more than the “required” amount of venting renders everything Lashon Hara. However, as you seem to have learnt, sometimes the venting can come back to haunt a person.

    In all events, what should you do? Firstly, according to Rav Yisrael Salanter you should not let your friend know that you have been speaking Lashon hara about her because she is (currently) completely unaware that you did and it will cause her a lot anguish if you were to tell her. Rav Yisrael Salanter rules further that it is preferable that you not be able to reach a level of absolute Teshuvah by not telling her, rather than hurt her by letting her know what you said about her.

    Secondly, perhaps the correct thing to do is to tell Friend A (who is moving) to look up Friend B and to say hello to her from you. If Friend A expresses surprise that you are asking her to say hello to Friend B you should tell Friend A that you love Friend B and that everything that you told her in the past is simply because you love Friend B so much. Hopefully Friend A has enough discretion to realize that she should let Friend B know any of the things that you said to her in the past.

    Best wishes from the Team