Don’t Run To Shame People

Running our mouth to shame someone on social media or elsewhere isn't just rude, it goes against Jewish teachings

As many of you know, my passion for education is very nearly matched by my passion for running. Several of my dearest friends are also runners. Lauren is one of those friends who brings two of my worlds together—I met her years ago through the Jewish community; we hit it off instantly, because we had so much in common: we were both from Texas, had kids the same age, we were both Jewish mothers, and both avid runners.

Both of us have run our entire lives and have gained balance and insight from running. Like many runners, we both have routes and routines that have become second nature to who we are. We prepare and plan carefully for our runs and consider things such as hydration, safety, and even spots to find a bathroom.

Lauren is what is called a “tech free runner,” meaning she doesn’t like carrying anything with her, not even water. Instead, Lauren devised a route where should could leave water and then loop back around half way so that she could have a drink, always picking the empty water bottle up as she finished her run. This has been her route for over a decade!

But recently, she was called out on social media for her routine.

It was indirect; a friend let Lauren know “Someone’s moaning about a runner on social media, and I think it might be you.”

To Lauren’s shock, she found a post on Facebook, along with photo of her water bottle, tagged with a disparaging comment about her leaving the water bottle with some pretty biting jabs and assumptions. To make matters worse, following the post came countless comments from strangers insulting her and judging her. These comments packed a punch, had a clear intention to harm, and were 100% untrue.

My friend Lauren was devastated, mortified and felt helpless defending herself about the untrue allegations. She wondered where this was coming from, why people would judge her so harshly and how all of this was even allowed to happen when none of what was being said was true.

She did find a way to respond, which you can read here. But to me, it’s a shame she had to take such a step. Why did a stranger feel the need to callously call her out in the first place?

Judaism provides us countless instructions on how to live a meaningful and good life. Among these instructions are clear guidelines about how we should treat each other. Specifically, we are told not to shame another person. Shaming, or causing public humiliation to another person, is a sin. The Talmud even compares someone who shames another to a murderer. It’s a pretty dramatic comparison and yet the rabbis of the Talmud must have known the impact public humiliation can truly have.

The notion of shaming another has always been of interest to me as an educator, because it is a major “no-no” as a form of classroom management… yet people still feel the need each day and in many situations to shame others as a way to get their point across. Social media has further complicated the issues of shaming others because of its ease and anonymity. The shaming of another can grow with a few clicks on a keyboard and often times the person shamed finds out after it has spread tremendously.

Lauren’s story got me thinking not only as runner, but as a Jewish educator. It’s a cautionary tale for all of us; a reminder to take a minute and catch our breath before overreacting about a situation especially when we aren’t sure of the facts. We also need to be responsible with our words, both written and spoken, as they can truly cause harm to others.

Perhaps if more of us went for a cleansing run instead of running our mouths, we would get back to treating each other with kindness.

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