Apparently, a young man made a habit of slandering the town’s wise man. One day, realizing the harm and hurtfulness of his actions, he went to the wise man’s home and asked for forgiveness. The wise man, realizing that young man had not really internalized the gravity of his transgressions, told him that he would forgive him on one condition: that he go home, take a feather pillow from his house, cut it up, go the edge of a cliff, and scatter the feathers to the wind. After he had done so, he should then return to the wise man’s house.
Though puzzled by this strange request, the young talebearer was happy to be let off with so easy a penance. He quickly cut up the pillow, scattered the feathers, and returned to the house.
“Am I now forgiven?” he asked.
“Just one more thing,” the wise man said. “Go now and gather up all the feathers.”
“But that’s impossible. The wind has already scattered them. There’s no way to retrieve them.”
“Precisely,” he answered. “And though you may truly wish to correct the evil you have done, it is as impossible to repair the damage done by your words as it is to recover the feathers. Your words are out there in the marketplace, spreading hate, even as we speak.”
Wow. Think about this.