Repentance, or Teshuva, involves three steps (in any order):
Regretting one's actions
Confessing the misdeed privately to G-d
Committing to not repeat the error in the future
In addition, any sin one person commits against another also requires
make amends or repay the damages
ask for forgiveness
If someone spoke Lashon Hara, all five of the steps are required. The
first three are the same as in all repentance - sincere regret,
confessional prayer, and the resolve plus strategies to avoid speaking
it in the future.
To make amends, the speaker must go back to all those who heard his
Lashon Hara and explain to them that what he said was incorrect. He
must also apologize to the subject of the Lashon Hara and ask for
forgiveness. If, however, the speaker is certain that the Lashon Hara
was never accepted, he is only required to complete steps 1-3.
Note: if, as part of asking forgiveness, telling the subject about the
Lashon Hara would cause the subject more anguish (either because he is
hearing it for the first time or it renews his distress over the matter),
the speaker is forbidden to mention it. Instead he should tell the
subject that he sinned against him without specifying how, and ask his
If someone believed Lashon Hara, he should make amends by making himself
no longer believe what he heard. He should also seek repentance through
the three standard steps for repentance for any sin: sincere regret,
confessional prayer, and the resolve plus strategies to avoid believing
what he hears (and ideally from hearing any of it) in the future.
Listening to Lashon Hara is problematic for two reasons:
(1) It is forbidden to accept or believe Lashon Hara, and by listening to it one
might cause himself to believe it.
(2) By participating in a session of Lashon Hara, the listener would be assisting
the other participants to commit the sins of speaking and believing the
Believing Lashon Hara is forbidden regardless of the subject (family, friend,
enemy, etc.), and regardless of the speaker (teacher, parent, spouse,
etc.). In some cases if the subject is known to commit certain sins or
have other problems, it might be permissible to believe it. In any case,
someone can suspect that the Lashon Hara might be true, such that the listener
takes precautions to protect himself from harm.
If information against someone might be of benefit to someone (e.g. a
potential business partner, roommate, etc.), it is permissible for that
person to listen to it. (It's a good idea for that person to state why he
is listening to the information so that the speaker realizes that the
intentions of the listener are constructive, and also so that he doesn't
intend to speak for non-constructive reasons.) However, the listener is
(1) accepting the information as true (he may only suspect and investigate), or
(2) taking action against the subject based on the
If caught in a group of people who are speaking Lashon Hara, one should try and
leave the group or change the topic. If stuck there:
(1) decide in one's heart/mind not to accept the Lashon Hara as true.
(2) do not enjoy the Lashon Hara (because the subject is being shamed,
its a funny story, etc.).
(3) do not pretend to agree or accept the Lashon Hara (make a face, don't
make eye contact, or at least wear a blank expression)
If someone starts speaking Lashon Hara, try to privately and respectfully tell
them that speaking Lashon Hara is forbidden. The best way to prevent others from
speaking Lashon Hara is by setting a good example.