The Feather Story
A wealthy Jewish man is nearing the end of his life. He tells his rabbi that he wants to make amends to all those about whom he has spoken ill. The Rabbi instructs him to take a bag of feathers and put one feather at the doorway to the homes of everyone he has slandered.
Thinking this a pretty easy task, the elderly man gets a bag of feathers and places a feather at the entrance to everyone’s home of whom he has spoken ill. Having completed the task, he asks the Rabbi what should he do next? The rabbi tells him to return to each home and retrieve every feather that he placed at the entrances.
But he can’t. The feathers have floated off to the four winds. In the much same way he cannot retrieve the ill words he has spoken about others. The gist of this story is that there is no limit to where our negative talk about others can spread.
I came across this version of the feather story in Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis’ book The Committed Life. Importantly the teachings of all faiths share a profound abhorrence of slander and back biting.
— When the Prophet Mohammed was asked who is the best Muslim, he replied: “He is the one from whom Muslims are safe from the evil of his tongue and hands.”
— In Leviticus one reads: “When you speak things about others that you would be ashamed to say in their presence, you are not only disobeying God’s Word, and you are also destroying that person’s reputation in the mind of your listener.”
— According to John, “When you find yourself gossiping, repent at once so that God will forgive you of this terrible, destructive sin. Gossip has its roots in jealousy, hate and self-pride. As a result, you are murdering the person in your heart.”
As well, central to these religions’ teachings is the power of healing and forgiveness. Though we can’t call back hurtful words, we can speak new words of apology. It’s not easy, but broken relationships can often be restored…with a tough conversation.”
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