There was once a man who had come to realize he had done some really wrong things—he had told lies about people. He had exaggerated stories about individuals. The stories had started out as true, but he had twisted the truth. He now felt sorry and wanted to have his sins forgiven, but he did not know the real way to have his sins forgiven. All he knew was to go to his priest for forgiveness. He did not realize that only God can forgive sins. (Mark 2:7.) If we are truly sorry, God will forgive us, but we must put things right as far as we are able to do so.
Well, the man went to his priest to ask what he should do. It was in the afternoon when he visited the priest, and the priest listened to his sorry tale and was silent for a moment. Then the priest told him what he should do. He should get a large bag of feathers (duck and chicken feathers would be fine). He was told to then take this bag with him late in the evening as he walked through town, and scatter handfuls of feathers along the streets, in the alleyways, and everywhere, until all the feathers were gone.
The man did just that, and he had a fine time! He really enjoyed scattering the feathers. Some of the feathers were carried by the wind up and over the rooftops. Some of the feathers went under cars parked in the street, and when the cars were driven away, the feathers went a long way with the cars before finally dropping to the ground. A few of the feathers were collected by children the next day and taken with them in their pockets, forgotten about until a long time later. Feathers went far and wide—carried by the wind, by little children, by vehicles . . . they just went everywhere.
The man had really enjoyed himself and eagerly went back to the priest to learn what he had to do next, for the priest had told him he had to do two things. He had done the first thing when he scattered the feathers. What would be the next thing for him to do?
Upon seeing him, the priest inquired, “How did the scattering of the feathers go?” He was pleased to know that the man had no more feathers left. “The next thing,” the priest told the man, “is to take the empty bag and this evening collect all the feathers.” Every feather had to be collected!
The man was aghast! He could not collect all the feathers. They had gone everywhere. It would be years before he could ever collect them all!
The priest looked at the dismayed man and said, “Just as your feathers have gone everywhere and cannot be collected up, so have your words gone everywhere with this and that person, and they cannot be reversed—they cannot be taken back.” The man went away sorrowful—to remember feathers every time he spoke.
“By thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned.” Matthew 12:37. “Let your words be life-giving, pointing those around you to the Saviour. Let them bring sunshine instead of gloom, harmony instead of animosity. Say nothing that you would not be willing to say in the presence of Jesus and the angels. Utter no word that will stir up strife in another heart. However provoked you may feel, restrain the hasty word.” Our High Calling, 291.