Words and Feathers
I made someone cry today. It wasn’t intentional. I can’t remember ever trying to purposefully get another person to shed a tear. It was a couple of words which rolled off my tongue, without any thought and then tears rolled down a person’s cheek.
“A young, talkative and arrogant fellow went about town belittling the local wise man. One day, feeling sorry for his slander, he went to the wise man’s home and asked for forgiveness.
The wise man told him that he would forgive him on one condition: that he go home, take a feather pillow from his house, cut it up, and scatter the feathers to the wind. After he had this, the young man should return. Though puzzled he went home, cut up a pillow, scattered the feathers as he was told, and returned.
“Am I now forgiven?” he asked. “Just one more thing,” the wise man replied. “Go now and collect all the feathers.” “But that’s impossible! The wind has blown them everywhere.”
“Precisely,” answered the sage. “And though you may truly wish to correct the damage your words have done, it is impossible.Your words are now out there with a life and power of their own.”
This morning, and the parable above, are stark reminders that words are powerful. Whether they are said in comfort, jest, condolence, anger or ambivalence once words are spoken they cannot be unspoken. For good or ill, positive or negative our words can build and destroy. Let us be sure to choose and use them carefully.