Rabbi, I have committed Lashon Hara against a number of people. When does one need to ask forgivness to another person? Also, how can I do Teshuvah for the Lashon Hara? I made a list of the people I know I did Lashon Hara to.
You are bringing up very important point. The aspect of asking mechila for speaking lashon hora is one of the factors that makes lashon hora a difficult aveiro, because often we speak about many different people, and it is hard to keep track of it over the course of a year etc.and difficult to go to the person and ask forgiveness. If you made a list of all the people that you spoke lashon hora about, that is terrific (especially if the list is so small that you can actually make a list of it!). Even for people that did speak about a lot of different people, and can’t keep track of all the people they spoke about, nevertheless they should not lose hope. The Chovos Halevavos (Shar Hateshuva chap. 10) says that there is nothing that gets in the way of a person who really wants to do teshuva, and if he spoke lashion hora about a lot of people he should do the best that he can, and H-shem will take care of the rest. For example, H-shem can put thoughts into the offended persons heart to be mochel you for anything that you might have done to them etc. In fact, there is a famous story with R’ Zalman Velozoner, that he insulted someone, and he could not find the person he offended, which caused him great anguish and he fell ill. The Vilna Gaon came to visit him and told him this idea from the Chovos halevavos, and that caused him to get better.
The basic guideline of when we have to go the person that we offended and ask them mechila, is if the other person was negatively effected by what was done to them. If the person was not negatively effected then you don’t have to ask them mechila. For example, if the lashon hora was not accepted by the other person, or even if it was, but the person who heard it didn’t change the way that he relates to the other person, and no harm came about because of the lashon hora, then you don’t have to ask them mechila. Obviously we would have to do teshuva for the bein adom lamakom part of the aveiro, which would mean to regret what was done, to confess the sin to H-shem, and to accept upon yourself to make your self better in that area.
One other point, although we usually have to tell the offended person what we did wrong to them, regarding lashon hora we don’t have to do this, because hat in itself will only makes things worse, and cause ill feeling between the two people. Therefore suffice by asking the person a general mechila.
Best Wishes and have a Kasiva V’chasima Tova
Chofetz Chaim 4-12 also see Be’er Mayim Chayim there.