I once heard a pastor relate a story about a woman in his congregation. She had a habit of spreading gossip about him and his family. One day she came under conviction, went to his home and asked for forgiveness.

Realizing she did not understand the serious damage she had caused, the pastor told her, “I will forgive you, but first do this for me. Go home, take a feather pillow from your house, cut it up, and scatter the feathers to the wind. After you do that, come see me again.”

Though puzzled by the strange request, the woman was happy to be let off with so easy a penance. She quickly cut up the pillow, scattered the feathers, and returned to his house.

“I did as you asked,” she said. “Am I forgiven now?”

“Just one more thing,” he said. “Go and gather up all the feathers.”

“But that’s impossible. The wind has already scattered them.”

“Precisely,” he answered. “And though you may truly wish to correct the evil you have done, it is as impossible to take back the words you have said, as it is to recover the feathers.”

While this story may be fictitious, its meaning is significant. Our words are like flying feathers; when we want to take them back, they can never be re-gathered. They are scattered to the wind, influencing people’s lives. Whether good or bad, words can never be unspoken.

May the words of my mouth
and the meditation of my heart
be pleasing in Your sight,
O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.
Psalm 19:14

Learning to speak what is pleasing in God’s sight may be one of our greatest spiritual achievements. Let it be, dear Lord, let it be! unspoken.