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Verbal Exploitation

Verbal Exploitation

Sticks, Stones & Names That Hurt Me


Which crime is worse, financial exploitation or verbal abuse? "Money can be reimbursed," the Talmud notes, "but the hurt from words is irreparable; money is a person's property, but words hurt the person himself."

Whether it's due to circumstance or nature, some people are more emotionally vulnerable than others. The Torah repeatedly tells us to watch our words with the widow, the orphan and the immigrant. Men are enjoined to speak sensitively to their wives. "The gates of prayer are sometimes closed," we are warned, "but never the gates of tears."

Whether due to circumstance or nature, some people are more emotionally vulnerable than othersHere are a few prototypes of verbal exploitation:

  • Name Calling: "Hey Traintracks! Can you pick up Radio China with that mouth gear?"
  • Chiding: "Cheer up, buddy! It's all for the good. Must be that you did some sins that this suffering is now expunging!"
  • Past Digging: "Look, Mary, a picture of you before the acne treatment!"
  • Wasting My Time: Joe asks Bill for help in his business, and Bill sends him on a wild goose chase, purposely providing useless internet links, defunct phone numbers and connections that won't get him anywhere. Bill says he meant well, but he knows the truth.
  • A more subtle example: Wayne walks into a store with great customer service and juices the salesperson for all the information he needs while trying all the samples. Then, once he's determined the best deal, he buys it at half-price online.
  • Public Embarrassment: "It's your fault, Johnny, if you didn't prepare. You're going to stand up there and make the presentation anyways."

"Better for a man to cast himself into a fiery furnace," the Talmud says, "than to shame his fellow in public." Publicly embarrassing someone, we are told, is not just breaking his bones–it's cold-blooded murder. If you have an issue with someone, deal with it privately. Be open and try to work out a resolution. Whenever possible, just forgive and forget and get on with life.

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יעקב TOPeka, s. August 2, 2016

Hiding Tell people in private(rebuke), when they seem to be in hiding? Reply

Anonymous Vancouver July 17, 2015

thank you for this article and comments by everyone Writing on June 3 / '15 I became thankful because of changes in my community, home, and Torah reading. I didn't understand why lashon hara and difficulties were at my doorstep, anyway I put it in His hands. There was a lesson for me as I read Torah. Am a Noahide who loves this site. Any aggravation a person has, which I had, sometimes needs to be expressed to another, who is trusted. May I mention that, because of lashon hara, I couldn't use my reasoning power for my thoughts went to fear, and getting it back is good. Not the fear, that is, but ability to in myself become patient and feel like reading Torah more. Reply

Samantha Leon July 14, 2015

What really makes me angry is how in some communities leshon hara is the lifeblood of the town. But if gossip is forbidden then why and how can this be allowed? And what about the whole" what's not nice we don't show" mentality? How does this bring us closer to G-d rather than ripping us away from him. The hypocrisy of it all makes me want to dry heave. As Dumbledore would put it, "Words are our most inexhaustible source of magic, capable of both inflicting injury and remedying it." Reply

Anonymous June 3, 2015

The unwritten rule in my community is get on with it when others talk lashon hara and since I showed annoyance to the people in charge I have gotten taken for everything I've had, the other unwritten rule is annoyance shown is a catchable disease. Others can be annoyed and there's time people spend with them asking questions, and lots of times they'll do lashon hara about me/ There is enough time provided by workers which is extensive. I get to go into an appointment and I'm publicly embarrassed when I attempt to, and make a plea to have a chance to be listened to and heard. I can't take it anymore So I'm dulled out by treatments whereas communicating would help me. Reply

Zipporah Talent, Oregon April 23, 2015

I am one of those people who is so hurt by comments. I remember all the hurtful things when I say my Prayers every night. I love this minute as it hit home for me. Reply

JDV April 23, 2015

There should be more attention given to this, especially with all the cyberbullying. However, now that people don't seem to think they need religion, how can it be taught? Reply

Anonymous Seasee City April 23, 2015

I make complaints to management when I feel I am being persecuted for my jewish ancestry to a point I become offended and I take a defensive attitude, for choosing not to eat pork, etc, acknowledging my jewish ancestry, but I find when I make a complaint this is like tossing gasoline on a fire, so the persecution escalates and they try like hell to provoke me to fight with them for everything I have, and then threaten me that we miss you in the draft so you are a draft dodger and you need to leave and go to your own state, if you want to be Jewish. Reply

Hadassah April 6, 2014

Excellent! Todah! Reply

Eliezer Zalmanov for April 6, 2014

Re: passing of a friend If the posting is is all about the positive in the person's life, it shouldn't be a problem. In fact, I would say that it's a good thing to learn from the deceased's life. Reply

Anonymous April 6, 2014

passing of a friend My old high school has a site where one can post/learn of a classmate(s) passing. Is it lashon hara to read or make a post?
Todah rabbah Reply

Anonymous April 4, 2014

words I found out that I had been a top of the line fool, stupid and made quite a cake of myself.

But, I had to KNOW this before I was able to make any corrections. To know this accurately is a wonderful gift that I wish I had got sooner. The knowing is too kind.

Nor do I really have much ability to dance around with fancy words. Speak it plain and speak it true. I hold no malice for myself and I certainly don't for others. Nor do I consider myself better than others.

Someday, may they realise that it is a wonderful gift to make accurate corrections with. I did.


Deborah M. Florida April 15, 2013

On verbal abuse Thank you....I've never heard anyone teach on this before, even though it is something that is a common problem with people in our vicinity. The unwritten rule is that we are supposed to take it from them and get over it. Actually, it is just wrong. Reply

Anonymous usa April 15, 2013

Widow's I so agree with the Torah's instructions about being kind to widows, being one myself has made me extremely sensitive and I wonder if people realize that you need to be treated like you still count especially in the USA not like in Israel were a widow is always included or invited for shabbos and looked after by caring friends. On the other hand in this society I find being a widow like having a catchable disease, so unless you have close family, which I do not, some people leave you out or give lip service to you and yes I have tried to find within my self if this treatment is my fault I'm not perfect, but when I had a spouse we had people over for dining and served the best we could or took friends to dinner I even had a "best" friend to meet for coffee once a week but were did all these people go?

Just in the last two weeks I have had offers from friends that say any time you need us we will help so I ask for small favor and they don't show. I'm kind I don't deserve this. Thank G-d I leave for Israel soon Reply

Louise Ann Zwick Howell NJ April 15, 2013

names that hurt me all those who bully others should take a lesson from these mitzvah minutes! Reply

New York Island stats from coast to coast N.Y., New York via January 4, 2013

Regular relationship inventory & yearly donations Many times some have a tendency to flood their address book with so many contacts w/o any mental note. Suddenly people become impersonal ready for mass mailers. Many times we shop so hard and so fast we foget to remove the tags off the garments we couldn't fit anyway because we simply could never lose the weight. When this happens we need to simplify our contacts and step up to quality networking. Flattering lists that portray 300 of our closest friends to invite to out wedding isn't being honest. Sometimes we have to mill over all that we have accumulated to consider donating from our closet items which aren't missing buttons or have an iron burn.
We need to focus on self respect not quantity. When entities treat us like punching bag for improv nite the cat needs to be put out so to speak. We need to love ourselves and call the card and put folks in check. We need to confront and test a change with those we loosely call friends. If these flash and display we need to boundary survey. Reply

maurice feldman philadelphia, pa January 4, 2011

verbal exploitation An opposing point of view.
Words can be someone's opinion to which they are entitled regardless of how mean. Abusive words can be an attempt to demoralize. They reflect the lack of character of the deliverer, not the victim. With strength of character, the person realizes this and gets on with life steadfast. When someone steals from you, firstly, it is often not reimbursed. Legal charges may not even be pursued. In the meantime, we are violated, taken from without consequence to the thief. The action is a reflection on the thief. We are at a loss through no fault of our own. The thief has our money. That is the bottom line. In my case, I can get on with my life just fine without forgiving my abusive thief. But I'd do better with the money. Words? I consider the source and move on unscathed. Reply

Anonymous anywhere, earth December 28, 2010

This is where good judgement and discernment are much required. To be gentle with others is indeed a virtue. Yet there are times when exposure is what is needed. To stand up and say what must be said. Especially if it is standing with the words of the L-rd. Too many shy away because the L-rd does not mince His words.
There is a time and season for all things. Reply

Sarah Ridgewood, NJ August 15, 2010

To David Hey hun, I think that you should ask God to help you forgive those who have wronged you and realize that you won't be anything better than them by giving back in any kind and realizing that they are the ones who don't understand proper conduct if you're good at explaining in a way that sounds non-accusing Reply

RochelS Brooklyn, NY May 25, 2010

particularly in these times... We seem to live, in the US at least, in an era of not only shameless self exposure, but watching others expose themselves to public performance, embarrassment, ridicule, rejection-Housewives in a variety of states are notable for their catty cliches or many many children and coping skills or lack thereof. Televsion, internet-its everywhere, pick a venue and make a statement, parade yourself or mock others. That noted, there is a fine line of being more sensitive in avoiding such behaviours and yet it seems necessary to shield ones' Self from the daily onslaught that comes from everywhere. Reply

David Chester Petach Tikva, Israel October 15, 2009

At the receiving end As the reciepient of many styles of this abuse, I am determined not to give back in kind. So what should I do to make myself feel better? Reply

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