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They’re Gossiping About Me!

Dear Adrienne:

In my office, there is a clique of women who I know are not fond of me. They snicker at every comment I make, and I know I am the butt of many of their jokes.
I do not imagine this. I have seen written evidence of their gossip about me!

I cannot confront them about this; I get physically sick from confrontation, and the thought of it makes me want to quit my job. I have heard that one should not let others’ opinions about them define them. Still, from a Jewish standpoint, what I should feel or do?

Humiliated

While there are tremendous merits spiritually to staying silent in the face of insults, we are also taught not to “hate your fellow in your heart.”

Dear Humiliated

The Jewish way is not to “turn the other cheek.” While there are tremendous merits spiritually to staying silent in the face of insults (in fact, it’s the perfect time to pray as the merits of not responding in anger are manifold), we are also taught not to “hate your fellow in your heart.” This means that it is often essential to air your feelings appropriately so that anger and hatred do not fester inside of you. That internal anger is dangerous for your health both physically and spiritually and can lead to other transgressions. In Hebrew, this process is called, giving “Tochachah,” and it means giving reproof through proof.

So you have two choices: stay silent –and pray hard for anything you need, or learn how to express yourself clearly but respectfully. Of course, one can and should do both wherever possible.

Also, please bear in mind that everyone deserves – and is legally entitled to — a safe and productive work environment. There is always the option of going to a supervisor to get feedback on how to improve relations in the office. This isn’t “snitching.” It is merely expressing your concerns and asking if your supervisor notices something that is making you a target.

Confrontation is my preferred option, although it will cause you tremendous anxiety and, by your admission, make you feel sick. However, I believe that getting through this may liberate your fear once and for all. You will see that while it is painful, you will not die from it, and you will feel empowered even through the fear!

Try saying or writing this: “I know that you are good people and would never knowingly hurt another person in any way. Still, I notice that somehow I trigger you and that often you laugh at me and make little hurtful comments about me. I believe that I am a decent human being and only want a peaceful work environment where I feel safe and respected. Is there something I have done that makes you feel disdain towards me? I am willing and open to hearing what that might be if it will make all of our workdays better.”

If they deny it, and they likely will say the following: “I am so glad to hear this. It was causing me so much pain to feel like the object of ridicule. Thank you for allowing me the dignity of sharing my concerns.”

Hopefully, this will make them aware that you are listening and noticing. If things don’t improve, then you must go to your supervisor or HR professional about this.

I send you my prayers that this situation improves for you. There is no worse feeling than the embarrassment of being humiliated and no worse behavior than humiliating someone else. Jewish wisdom considers this murder.

There are so many laws in the Torah about the dangers of “Lashon Hara” (evil speech). And this is an all too common example of it. To scorn or mock one’s fellow is also a huge transgression. While this does not alleviate the pain and embarrassment you are feeling, it is all too ubiquitous! This is why there are so many laws against it. As hard as this is, I hope you will find the strength to give the “Tochachah” (reproof through proof). If you feel you cannot, then I send you the strength to pray for them to see the error of their ways. They certainly will need it!

Sending love and friendship,

Adrienne

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