By Chana Nestlebaum
Want to be the good guy? The hero? The star? It’s up to you to decide what character you play in the drama of life. You write the script every day with the words you speak.
You’re sitting at a table full of relatives at a family simchah. One cousin is missing—the one who always seems to be missing. “Too bad Reuven couldn’t come,” says cousin Shimon. “We don’t get to see him often enough.”
“Well, he’s got a lot on his plate,” says cousin Levi. “With his store and all the things he does for Tomchei Shabbos, it’s hard for him to get away.”
“Oh, please,” says cousin Yehudah. “Get real. We all have a lot on our plates. You have to care enough to come, and obviously Reuven doesn’t.”
Which of these characters would you rather be? With which one would you rather spend your time? Shimon, a friendly guy who wants to be close with his family? Levi, an empathetic person who gives his cousin the benefit of the doubt? Or Yehudah, whose negative view of others sours the conversation?
When each of these men chose the words they would say, they chose their role in the scene. Yehudah chose to identify himself with the most negative possible interpretation of Reuven’s absence: that the family was a low priority in Reuven’s life. His words of loshon hora not only spread a negative view of Reuven but also, and to an even greater extent, they projected a negative view of Yehudah as the type of person who thinks unkind thoughts and says unkind things about people in their absence.
But who wants to play the role of Yehudah in the drama of their lives? Hashem gives us the laws of shmiras haloshon to guide us in creating an award-winning role for ourselves as people who light up the stage with love, friendship, compassion and courage.