"He who seeks love overlooks faults, But he who harps on a matter alienates his friend" - Proverbs 17:9

What does this verse mean exactly? I take it as those who love one tend over look sins of the one they love but when he calls out his friend or loved one on such a sin then he alienates the said loved one. Is that bad or good?

1 Answer 1


Rashi explains that the first part means that:

He who conceals transgression seeks love If one man sins against another, and the latter conceals it for him, does not remind him of his sin, and does not show him an angry face, he causes him to love him.

Rashi explains that one who points out every fault in another person, saying “You did such and such a thing to me.” then he alienates the L-rd of the world.

See also מוסף רש"י (p. 95)

The Rabbeinu Yonah on Avos 1:6 cites this posuk and explains the meaning to be:

"He who seeks love covers errors, but he who harps on a matter alienates a leader." He meant to say, one who covers when his friend errs, seeks love - as through this, their love is preserved, as he tolerates his errors. But if he harps about the matter with his friend, he speaks against him and repeats it and says, "See what this one said; what he said about me, he 'alienates the leader' - he(certainly) alienates his leader from him, meaning to say, his friend.

A similair idea can be found in the words of halacha. The Sefer HaMitzvos writes (305):

He prohibited us - that we not bear a grudge, even if we do not pay him back. And that is that we remind him of the sin that this sinner did. And He prohibited this with His saying, "you shall not bear a grudge" (Leviticus 19:18).

See Rambam in Hilchos De'os & sefer עטרת שלום (p. 44).

  • I thought it was in reference to not doing such and such to me but trying to point out sins he has done unto him self or others. So say if we are in a rehab and I point out that my friend though intelligent suffers from grave moral decay due to his addiction but he says he didn't hurt no one therefor he is moral am I alienating him by pointing out the evils he commits? This is of course taking into consideration he is blind to his own plights and evils.
    – naarter
    Aug 7, 2023 at 12:34

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