Sunday, September 11, 2011
Scattering Feathers in the Wind
An old Jewish tale well illustrates the consequences
of spreading hurtful gossip. Told in various forms, the
gist of the story is as follows.
A man went about town slandering the town’s wise
man. Later, the malicious gossiper realized his wrong
and went to the wise man to ask for forgiveness, offering
to do whatever was necessary to make amends.
The wise man had one request: The gossiper was told
to go and take a feather pillow and cut it open, scattering
the feathers to the wind. Though puzzled by the
request, the gossiper did as he was instructed and then
returned to the wise man.
“Am I now forgiven?” he asked.
“First, go and gather all the feathers,” the wise man
“But how can I? The wind has already scattered
“It is as difficult to repair the damage done by your
words as it is to recover the feathers.”
The lesson is clear. Once spoken, words cannot be
retrieved, and it may be impossible to undo the hurt
they cause. Before spreading a bit of gossip, we are
wise to remember that we are, in effect, about to scatter
feathers in the wind.