“Please come speak to me after class regarding your test.” (Me, writing privately to a student who had failed her test.)

“Look what a mess this kid has made.” (Me, exasperated by my child’s antics, calling across the room to my husband, my other son and younger sister nearby.)

It is so much easier to be sensitive to others in a professional environment. It’s much harder to be sensitive to friends and family who are in one’s immediate circle.

In chapter three of Ethics of the Fathers (Pirkei Avot), Rabbi Elazar of Modi’in said, “One who . . . whitens the face of [shames] his friend in public . . . has no share in the World to Come.”1 The Talmud says that it is preferable that a person throw himself into a furnace rather than shame his fellow in public.2

When Joseph was viceroy in Egypt, he endangered his life to avoid embarrassing his close family members. Just as he was about to reveal himself to his brothers as the long-lost Joseph, he sent his bodyguards out of the room. Not wanting his Egyptian aides to witness the shame and remorse his revelation was sure to elicit his brothers, he left himself vulnerable to being killed by them, rather than risk their public humiliation.

Thoughtstream: Today, I will speak gently to my child, taking him off to the side and not embarrass him in front of others.

(Adapted from Pirkei Avot, Kehot, p. 98-99.)