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Seek Out The Positive

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An ethical dilemma: A close friend confides in you that he/she recently purchased an expensive, one-of-a-kind, nonreturnable item. When he/she shows it to you, you are immediately aware that the item is not at all unique,  your cousin has purchased the exact same item. Your friend and your cousin will probably never meet, so your friend will probably never know that he/she overpaid for something that was not really one-of-a-kind. Should you inform your friend?

Perhaps the following Talmudic quote will help inform your decision: 

“Said [the students of] Hillel to [the students of] Shammai: …if one has made a bad purchase in the market, should one praise it in his [the buyer’s] eyes or depreciate it? Surely, one should praise it in his eyes. Therefore, the Sages said: The disposition of man should always be pleasant with people” (Ketubot 17a).

In the above example of the overpriced item, sharing the information would be of no benefit to the friend, as the item is no longer returnable. Telling him/her would only hurt his/her feelings. But what about a situation where one is actually asked for an opinion regarding an article of clothing that one does not like, or knows that the new electronic gizmo is not actually the most recent or advanced model?

It should be clear that the sages are not suggesting that people should lie, which would contradict the Torah’s instruction to ‘Keep far from a false matter’ (Exodus 23:7). Rather one should always look for the positive, which can be found in almost every situation. 

January 24 is National Compliment Day.

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