WORDS THAT HURT, WORDS THAT HEAL by Joseph Telushkin

WORDS THAT HURT, WORDS THAT HEAL

How to Choose Words Wisely and Well

KIRKUS REVIEW

 An ethical self-help book for all of us who belittle lies, slander, and gossip as ``only words.'' According to Telushkin, a rabbi and popularizer of Jewish lore (Jewish Wisdom, 1994, etc.), it is easier to give up alcohol than to abandon our daily diet of verbal cruelties. The author demonstrates how ``negative truths'' or outright slander can be a prelude to murder, whether issued by a government propaganda office or a gangsta rapper. Even a lie in service of a good cause is reprehensible: Feminist misinformation about 150,000 annual deaths from anorexia exemplifies what Telushkin calls the ``macro'' lie. The American press, in particular, is called to task for needlessly ruining lives. Telushkin presents the case of Oliver Sipple, who saved President Ford's life in 1975. The author maintains that Sipple was cut off from his family and drank himself to death after the papers exposed him as a homosexual. When catching a child in a lie, we are advised to mention the mistruth but not to brand the child a liar. Telushkin offers several harrowing examples of people scarred for life by childhood verbal assaults. White lies for moral reasons are praised, while St. Augustine's absolute value put on the truth is said to be a dangerous extreme. ``Words that heal'' don't get as much treatment here, but freer expression of compliments, regrets, and love is extolled. The book concludes with the verbal equivalent of the ``Great American Smoke Out''--a proposed ``Speak No Evil Day.'' A cynic might anticipate ``See No Evil'' and ``Hear No Evil'' days as well and dismiss much of this book as clichÇd, moralistic pap. But the rabbi's erudite, insightful, yet punchy sermon will have most readers nodding in embarrassed self-recognition. Telushkin delivers a necessary tongue-lashing for a culture that needs to lash its tongue. (Author tour)

Pub Date: April 1st, 1996
ISBN: 0-688-12445-3
Page count: 192pp
Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15th, 1996




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