Do you remember the old nursery rhyme, "Sticks and stones may break your bones, but names will never hurt you?" The truth is that words an cause us great pain which can last longer than it takes for a broken bone to heal. In current times this is more true than ever before. In fact, there has been a proliferation of unkind, unsavory, reprehensible words, phrases, ropes thrown around and at people. here is an old Jewish folktale that illustrates the harm of unkind words and gossip.
"The words we use can hurt as well as heal... yet there is more to kind speech than saying nice things.
There was once a man who loved to gossip. He loved the attention it brought him, and could not stop himself from speaking about others, sometimes sharing the good they did, but most often sharing the mistakes they made.
In time, however, he realized the harm his speech was causing, and he sought to make amends. He went to his rabbi and explained the situation and asked how he could make amends.
The rabbi thought for a moment and instructed the man to go to the marketplace and purchase two of the finest feather pillows he could find. He should then take his pillows to the top of the mountain overlooking the village, tear them open, and spill the feathers into the wind.
The man was surprised and pleased at the rabbi's advice. He thought repentance would be much harder than this. So, he ran to the marketplace, purchased his pillows, and within an hour had scattered their feathers into the wind.
He returned to the rabbi all aglow. he was ready to be forgiven for his gossiping. Not just yet, the rabbi told him. there was one more thing to do. he had to return to the mountain and repack the pillows with the feathers he had scattered.
"But that's impossible," the man said. "Those feathers have gone everywhere, there is no way I can take them back now."
The rabbi nodded solemnly and said, "What is true of feathers is true of words. Once spoken they can never be retrieved. The harm caused by gossip cannot be undone."
What is the antidote? One idea that I recently read about involved going back over our lives and making note of everyone that helped us, was kind to us, cared for us. With that acknowledgement we give thanks to each one. This can create a perspective shift to focusing on others' good qualities and helps us let go or ease some of those 'word hurts.' For our own part it might help us to keep the feathers inside the pillow casing.
Comments are welcomed.