Dear Rabbi, I need your help understanding something in Torah. It’s the issue of Lashon Hara. I am guilty of gossiping (a lot) throughout my life. I gossipped due to peer pressure (wanting to fit in), to make myself feel more confident, because I wanted to hurt others and because I thought it was funny. It has become a habit for me now. I remember studying the Miriam story and know how serious Lashon Hara is.
I have been working on changing my ways (I know the first step of Teshuvah is to cease the action). But:
1) How do I repent to people I will probobly never see again or who were random strangers I didn’t even really know but I still gossipped about them?
2) How can I repent if I can’t talk to the person again because of akwardness and not being able to see them?
3) What about using social media to post an I’m sorry for people I will never meet/see and those I do not know I’ve hurt in any way.
You are doing a great thing for yourself by wanting to repent for speaking lashon hora, and although it is not easy to repent and ask all the people that you have spoken about , our job is to do the best that we can, and then to daven to H-shem that he should help us. When H-she sees that you are sincere about doing teshuva for what was spoken, he will provide the necessary siyata dismaya (divine assistance) to help you finish the job.
To do teshuva for speaking lashon hora we have to do the regular teshuva like any other sin, which consist of regretting what was done, viduy- confessing and saying to H-shem that you sinned and that you are sorry about it, and lastly accepting upon yourself to make yourself in that area. Aside from this being that lashon hora is a mitzvah bein adom l’chaveiro we also have to ask the affected person forgiveness. However we only have to do this for people that incurred a loss as a result of our lashon hora. If you spoke about a random stranger, although you have to regular teshuva, you don’t have to ask him for forgiveness. This is because the person was not actually harmed by what you said. This will take off many of the lashon horas that were spoken. Regarding the people that you do know and were actually harmed, you cannot ask them outright and tell them that you spoke lashon hora about them, because that will only make matters worse, however you can ask them for a general forgiveness. Regarding using social media for this, it doesn’t appear that you will gain much by doing so by it. This is because those people who don’t know you will not see it in any case, but if you feel that it will help you for those who you don’t know who you hurt, that is fine, but it should be done in a way that people won’t look down at it, and in a mocking way.
May H-shem send you strength and all he help that you need o complete your teshuva correctly.