Do you know if what you are saying is true? Are you seeing the whole situation? Do you personally KNOW what you're saying to be true? Will what you say lead another to have a view of the individual that is hurtful or incorrect?
Basically, just don't do it and if you hear it....don't spread it and take it with a grain of salt. Definitely don't judge someone based on gossip.
Our sages say that lashon horah kills. And I have found that to be very real and very true. The lashon horah I have experienced hasn't killed my body but it has destroyed my soul, my neshama, my reason to live.
I had an ugly separation from my husband in Israel. Things were assumed by him that weren't true and that I always denied. Things were told to me by authorities in charge of our autistic son that threatened my custody of him and I had to take action. So there was a lot going on and a lot of reasons why we divorced. I am not saying I made good choices but I AM saying that what he later said about me wasn't true. What kills me to this day is that everyone he told chose to believe it. Simply because once I had my get (religious divorce) I put it behind me and didn't discuss it out of propriety, I was viewed as guilty and in this case, I was presumed guilty of having had an affair - which wasn't true.
When he came back to the US he specifically made sure to tell everyone we knew including friends in the two synagogues we had belonged to.
I was placed in house without heat or water (my toilet was a bag and animal bedding litter). He took my son and then told me because of my actions I couldn't see him or talk to him. This was March so I lived in a bedroom with a space heater and an electric kettle. I ate hot dogs and crackers when I could get them. No one called. My "best" friend finally allowed me to come to her house for a shower once my dad had given me a junker to run around in.
I planned my suicide, became severely depressed, anxious, started having panic attacks and couldn't leave the house. I was afraid of seeing someone I knew. I was also deathly afraid of having a seizure with no one around. I'd had two grand mal seizures in Israel so it was a real fear.
This is how lashon horah kills and destroys.
I talked to the rabbi at my former synagogue and was told that because of postings made by me on Facebook and, I assume, the gossip my ex spread, I was not welcome back. Oh sure I could show up but he thought ugly things might be said to me. I am still incredibly fragile and I knew this would do me in. It did me in anyway. Suddenly I wanted to curl up in my bed and stay there forever. I didn't want to face the world ever again. I thought I was better off dead. I thought I couldn't be Jewish because no community would have me based on this gossip.
And that, in a nutshell, is why gossip or lashon horah is devastating. You don't know for sure what you're hearing second hand is true. You don't know what may or may not have happened. You may even have witnessed something but you don't know the whole story. I admit I was wrong and made very bad choices. But does this mean I deserve to be vilified for my entire life? Denied my heritage and a community of which to be part?
The people at this particular synagogue should be aware of this. It's a central tenet of Judaism. Always give the benefit of the doubt. And no one can be condemned without three eyewitnesses. There's a lot involved.
And the biggest wrong? Why wouldn't this rabbi, at the very least, remind his congregation of all of this before He relayed this to me - before I was demeaned, blacklisted and made to feel less than human and better off dead?