The Torah tells us that one who was afflicted with tzara’at would be quarantined outside of the camp or city until they were healed. When you have spoken destructive words, do the same: Take yourself outside of the camp, so to speak, and identify what motivated you to embarrass, judge, and hurt someone with your words. Was it haughtiness? Was it your ego? Were you trying to put someone else down to make yourself look better? Or did it just make you feel good?
Remember this before you are tempted to speak negatively about someone: Think about squeezing all of the toothpaste out of a tube and trying to put it back in. It’s impossible. Similarly, once negative words are released, you can’t put them back, and sometimes, you can’t undo the hurt that it causes.
So what can help prevent gossip? Humility. This can be seen in the purification process for one who was being cleansed of tzara’at: “then shall the priest command to take for him that is to be cleansed two living clean birds, and cedar-wood, and scarlet, and hyssop” (JPS 1917, Lev. 14:4).
Rashi explains that, “the hyssop symbolizes the humility that the metzora should have,” and the cedar, he explains, “is a symbolic reminder that he who holds himself as high as the cedar tree should learn to lower himself like the hyssop.”
Cultivate humility within yourself. Learn to control your speech. One word can make a difference, positive or negative. One word can create a bridge, or a barrier. One word can create isolation, or trust.