There’s an old folktale of a person who slandered a wise man of the village. Eventually the individual realized the error of his ways and went to the wise man and asked forgiveness. The wise man could see the gossiper didn’t comprehend the gravity of what he had done.
“I will forgive you, but first you must take a feathered pillow, cut it open, and cast the feathers to the wind.”
The man did so, and returned to the wise man, who said to him, “Now go and collect all the feathers again and bring them to me.”
The repentant gossiper replied, “But that’s impossible! They’re scattered all over the village! I can’t retrieve them all.”
“True,” said the wise man, “and it’s impossible to retrieve the lies you have spread by gossiping.” Then the wise man forgave him.
It’s easy to spread a message; it’s nearly impossible to unspread it. Even when distortions or lies about someone are corrected there’s always residual damage to the person’s reputation that can’t be repaired.
As I write this I’m not thinking about any guilty party other than me. I’m embarrassed to admit I can’t even recall all the times I’ve said something negative about someone else that God had never called upon me to share.
Here are just a few guidelines I’ve come up with that help me determine if what I want to share about someone is something I should do. Perhaps you can find them helpful too.
1. Can I expect any good to come from sharing this?
2. Do I honestly believe it’s God’s will that I share this?
3. Would I be comfortable with continuing to share this if I saw the person come into the room?
As a pastor for nearly 40 years I had just a handful of funerals where people shared that the deceased had never said a bad word about anyone. I’d like to work toward building that kind of reputation for myself. You too? How about we start right now! Remember what we were told as children? “If you can’t say something nice don’t say anything at all.” Good advice!
“Whoever would foster love covers over an offense, but whoever repeats the matter separates close friends.” (Proverbs 17:9)