Question: [Wednesday, 20th Kisleiv, 5782]
Somebody said something to me the other day in Shul, within ears reach of other people, which I was deeply offended by. I know that he probably did not intend to offend me, and he may have had good intentions, but the way it came out was hurtful at least from my perspective. What my mind is telling me is to just ignore it, but my heart still feels hurt, and I guess I’m carrying a grudge against him. What do you suggest that I do? Should I simply ignore it and try to swallow my pride, or should I approach him and say something?
If you truly feel hurt by his words and are unable to bring it to rest to the point that it affects your interaction with this individual being that you now hold a grudge against him, then according to Halacha you are absolutely obligated to approach him privately, and gently and peacefully express to him your hurt feelings, and hopefully the individual will be of maturity and understanding to apologize and appease you, even if it was an innocent mistake on his part with no bad intentions. You can do this by privately speaking to him or sending him a message. By doing so you fulfill the mitzvah of Hocheiach Toichiach Es Amisecha, and avoid the prohibition of hating a fellow Jew. If, however, you know the psyche of this individual, and that bringing it up to him will just make things worse, then you should measure carefully whether bringing it up is the best decision, and when and how it should be done. All the above only applies if you’re still offended and cannot forgive him and put the matter to rest without him acknowledging your pain. If, however, you’re able to forgive him in your heart without approaching him about it, then that is the best thing and is an act of piety. As the saying goes, “what the mind doesn’t heal, gets healed with time,” and hence you may choose to give yourself some time to let the matter heal on its own, and in the interim not act any different with the individual, and if you see that it won’t go away from your heart, or is causing you to act differently with individual now, then design a plan of how to approach him about it.
Explanation: There is a biblical prohibition against holding a grudge against another Jew and against hating another Jew in one’s heart, and a biblical obligation to love a fellow Jew. Accordingly, one who feels hurt by the words or actions of another individual has the obligation of doing whatever he can to bring the matter to a peaceful solution, and not carry a grudge for the rest of his life. This can be accomplished by one judging the other person favorably, and telling oneself different arguments that can help him forgive the individual and put the matter to rest in his heart so he can continue with a friendly and cordial relationship with him. If, however, one is unable to emotionally forgive him and still carries hard feelings in his heart, then Halacha dictates that he must approach that individual and confront him about the issue in a kind and peaceful manner that will hopefully bring appeasement and good resolution on both sides. The Rishonim and Poskim derive this law from an explicit verse in Scripture which states, “do not hate your friend in your heart, chastise your friend,” which can be interpreted to mean that if one feels offended by another do not hold the hatred in your heart and rather bring it up to him so he can acknowledge it and apologize.
Deciding to not approach the individual about the issue and rather keep the grudge in one’s heart forever, transgressing this law, and is one of the leading causes of broken relationships, and discord amongst, spouses, family, friends, and communities, and as the Rambam writes is what caused Avshalom to murder Amnon as he chose to let the hatred build in his heart rather than approach his brother and confront him. Quite often, all a person wants is to be acknowledged for his pain, and to hear an apology and words of appeasement from the offender, to help him reach closure and put the matter to rest and continue an even better relationship with the individual. Sometimes we feel too much pride to admit to the individual that we were hurt by him, and therefore choose not to bring it up, even though that due to that same pride we are unable to forgive him in our hearts. Thus, the Torah instructs us to overcome the self-pride, and bring the issue up to the individual in order to continue peaceful relations.
However, not always does this work, and it is dependent on the temperament of both the person who was offended and the person who offended him. If the person who was offended does not approach the offender in a peaceful manner about the issue, then he will ignite the offender’s defense mechanism, and perhaps create a much larger discord then that which was caused by the offense itself. Likewise, some individuals for whatever reason have difficulty hearing themselves being blamed, and accusing them of hurting you will just trigger more hurt feelings and insults and accusations. Thus, in addition to the need for the person to approach the offender in the most peaceful manner, he should also measure the temperament and expected reaction of the individual, and weigh whether he should approach the matter, and the proper time and wording that should be used. This especially applies in a marriage between a husband and wife.
Suggestive tips to follow when you feel offended by someone’s words or actions:
- Try to work on yourself and judge the person favorably, and forgive him in your heart, and put the matter to rest.
- If the above does not work, then strategize the best and most peaceful way of approaching him, so the matter can come to a closure.
- Choose the right time and setting to express the complaint. When expressing the matter to the individual, always make sure it is done privately.
- When expressing the matter to the individual, try to avoid using accusatory language, such as “you did this,” and rather focus on your feelings by saying, “I felt hurt by this and this.”
- Try to start off with pitching a compliment about the person before going on the “attack.”
Sources: See regarding the obligation to approach the individual if he did something hurtful to you, and you are unable to put it to rest and forgive them: Admur 156:6 “When a person was wronged by another, he is not to remain silent and hold it in his heart and hate him, but rather it is a Mitzvah to confront him and tell him “Why did you do to me such and such,” as the verse states Hocheiach Tochiach Es Amisecha. Nevertheless, if one chooses to forgive the aggressor and not confront him, then this is an act of piety, as the Torah was only particular regarding the hatred.”; Rambam Deios 6:6; Sefer Hamitzvos Assai 205; Sefer Hamaspik Leovdei Hashem [authored by Rav Avraham, son of Rambam] chapter 6 that through confronting ones friend one can banish the hard feeling from his heart; Ramban and Rashbam on Vayikra 19:17 that you need to confront him so he has a chance to apologize and be forgiven; Erechin 16b; Tana Divei Eliyahu Rava 18; Kedoshim 19:17; Likkutei Sichos Vol. 28 p. 169 [lashon Hakodesh edition] See regarding the prohibition to hate a Jew in one’s heart: Michaber C.M. 272:11; Admur Hilchos Ovrei Derachim 9; Pesachim 113b; See regarding the prohibition to hold onto a dispute and to do everything possible to try to bring it to an end: Rav and Resih Lakish in Sanhedrin 110a based on Bamidbar 17:5; Smag 157 [Biblical-Possibly listed as Mitzvah 157]; Rambam and Ramban Sefer Hamitzvos Shoresh 8 [Rabbinical]; Marganisa Tava on Sefer Hamitzvos Shoresh 8; M”B 156:4; Piskeiy Teshuvos 156:13 See regarding expressing one’s claims against the individual in a gentle and peaceful manner: Admur 156:8; Rambam Deios 6:7