Years ago, a true friend shared this story with me after I’d succumbed to the temptation to share damaging gossip. I’ve never forgotten this story – today was the day I would pay it forward.
Once there was a foolish woman in a small village, who spread some gossip about another woman in the village. Before long the foolish woman began to feel remorse about what she had done so she went to the wise man of the village to ask him what she could do to make things right. The wise man listened carefully to her story, thought for a moment, and then told her to go to the market and buy a chicken. On the way home from the market she was to pluck that chicken letting the feathers fall along the path. The next day she was to come back and see the wise man again.
The foolish woman did as the wise man suggested. She bought a chicken and plucked it on the way home. When she came to him the next day she told him that she had done what he asked her to do. The wise man said to her, "Now, I want you to go home today by the same road you took yesterday, and pick up every single feather you dropped along the path." The woman was distraught, and protested that there was absolutely no way she could find and pick up all those feathers. The wind would have surely blown them everywhere!
The wise man quietly responded, "You are correct…and you see, just as you can never retrieve all those feathers, there is no way you can ever restore the reputation of the woman whom you harmed with your words."