Author Lois Tverberg recounts an entertaining story of an inveterate gossip who had decided to mend his ways. Regretting the damage he’d done, the man approached the village rabbi, asking what he should do to make things right.
As the story goes, the rabbi simply told him to go home and fetch a pillow. When the man returned, the rabbi commanded him to slit the pillow open and then scatter its feathers to the wind.
As the feathers blew every which way, over housetops and through fields, the rabbi turned to the man and said, “Now, go gather all the feathers again and put them back in the pillow.”
“But that’s impossible,” the man objected.
“In the same way,” the rabbi said, “it’s impossible to repair all the damage that your words have done.”1
The problem with words is that they tumble out of our mouths so effortlessly, often before we’ve had a chance to consider them. But reckless words can wreck the peace, spreading like a contagion from person to person. If you have been guilty of passing on a juicy bit of gossip, don’t despair. There is still time to change. True, you can’t pick up all the “feathers” you’ve already scattered, but you can keep the rest of them right where they belong—inside the pillow.
Today, ask God to change your heart so you are no longer eager to listen to or spread gossip. Then show your resolve by saying something positive about people you’ve criticized in the past. Then ask God to keep your lips pure in the future by helping you cultivate the habit of thinking before you speak.
Father, forgive me for passing on gossip or speaking in ways that hurt the reputations of others. Give me the wisdom to know when to speak and when to keep quiet.
- Lois Tverberg, Walking in the Dust of Rabbi Jesus (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2012), 97.