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Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Should you tell your friend how ugly their kitchen is?

Daf Yomi Kesubos 16

Sharon and Michael had just finished redoing their kitchen.  They invited us over with a number of their friends for a party.  Now I’ll admit, I was a little taken aback as I walked in.  I like the retro look but their eighteenth century theme was a little too much, even for me.
‘What do you think?’ beamed Sharon.
Her neighbour, Jenny, was the first to reply.  ‘It’s a little off, if you ask me.  What were you thinking?’
Before she could continue, I chimed in, ‘I think it’s absolutely stunning!’  I went on to praise the lighting and their choice of faucets and asked them where they found their flooring.
That was more than enough to get them to refocus and proudly tell us the whole story of their new kitchen.

How do we dance before a bride?  What should we say?
The House of Shamai says: Praise her as befits her.
The House of Hillel says: Extol her for her beauty and attractiveness.

The House of Shamai asked the House of Hillel, “What if she were lame or blind, would you still call her beautiful and attractive? Does the Torah not say distance yourself from falsehood?”
The House of Hillel replied, “And in your opinion, if someone were to make a poor market purchase, would you praise it to him or speak ill of it?  Of course you would praise it!”
From here our Sages declared: A person’s opinions should always be pleasant towards others.

Many people feel the need to constantly let others know the ‘truth.’  Our Sages make it very clear that concern for hurting another’s feelings is a more important value than ‘saying it as it is.’  Our job is not to be blunt and tactless; we must always think about building people’s confidence.

Every time you speak, you need to ask yourself: what am I trying to accomplish by my comments?  Your goal must forever be to make others feel special and wonderful.  If you have nothing nice to say, better not to say anything at all!   

But really, that’s not good enough. You should always be able to find something nice to say to build a person’s confidence, even if it means bending the truth a little.   After all, everyone wants to think of their spouse as beautiful and the worst that could happen would be that they were previously unsure about their decision and you’ve just come and clarified in their minds that they chose well.  Please G-d, they’re going to live with this person for the rest of their lives, they might as well be as excited as possible about them!

Before you make any comment, you must always ask yourself what the outcome will be.  If you’re going to make the other person feel good, you’re on track for your mission in life.   If they will just feel awful, what exactly do you feel you’ve accomplished?  Maybe it’s the new car they’ve purchased or the new kitchen they’ve installed.  You don’t have to drive it or live in it, you just need to make them feel good about it!

Be a builder!  Use every opportunity to make others feel good even if you might not have made the same choices.  May you merit always sharing pleasant opinions and making every person you meet feel they are the most special person in the world!