Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people. (First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt)
Reality is very different. Unfortunately, people do spend much time talking about others. Often the content is not favorable.
People would like to believe that words don’t matter. After all, I’m not doing anything, I’m just uttering words. Surly, what real harm is caused?
In truth however reality is very different. Words have huge impact. Both positively and negatively. Words can either build or destroy lives, literally.
In offering insight into the name of this week’s Torah portion “Emor” (Speak) the Lubavitcher Rebbe teaches us that certain types of speech are in fact an imperative.
In his code of Jewish law, Maimonides writes “Each man is commanded to love each and every one of Israel as himself, as the verse states: "Love your neighbor as yourself”. Therefore, one should speak the praises of others.”
If we analyze Maimonides statement we uncover a profound truth about building positive relationships which can change our lives.
Maimonides is teaching us that by talking positively about someone, we are in effect revealing a latent quality, increasing its value as a result. Just like with the mining of precious stones where the value is massively increased as a result of brining it out into the open.
Consequently this dynamic evokes an affinity between those who hear the praise and the person who is being praised. Which is why Maimonides sees the act of praising others as the primary tool towards the fulfilment of the most fundamental principle in Judaism, “Love your fellow as yourself”.
So the choice is ours. Do we want to build or to destroy? Do we want fill our hearts with love or hate? Do we want to bring out the best in others or the worst?
We exercise our free choice each moment, every day, with the words we use when speaking about others.
Imagine a world where people only spoke good about people?
Imagine a world where the resources spent on climate change would be invested into creating a universal awareness of the creative or destructive power of speech!