Using your imagination, imagine a 4-by-4 oak timber. Imagine a large nail. Now take the nail and drive it deeply into the log, not so deep that you cannot pull it out again, but very deep. Now pull it out with your claw hammer. As you look at it you realize the hole is ugly and not appropriate for that lovely piece of wood. So you get some wood putty and fill the hole as much as you can. Wait for it to dry and then start sanding, rough grit at first and eventually with a fine sandpaper. You can no longer feel the hole, but you can see it nonetheless. So you get some sanding sealer, apply that, and sand it, then another coat, and sand it silky smooth. Then a coat of paint, let it dry, and another coat of paint and let it dry, and finally a last coat of paint. When it is dry you can no longer see or feel the hole.
Hooray … but take a splitter and split the log in two from the top. When you do that you will see the nail hole. It is all the way through, never to be filled. Now I will tell you—perhaps you have guessed. The nail is a harsh hurtful word, the wood is someone’s heart. It may be covered in forgiveness, sanded with love and care, but can never be erased or forgotten.
The town gossip did just that, told truths and lies about just everybody in town; she did so for many years, causing heartbreak and anger and sorrow in her little town. One night, she had a dream about all the people she hurt with her evil tongue. When she woke, she was in a state. “Oh my,” she thought, “all those people I hurt and wounded with my gossip. I am so sorry,” and she started crying and sobbing and regretting every word. She sincerely wanted forgiveness, but no one would acknowledge her as she tried to apologize.
She hurried to her church and spoke to her pastor. “What shall I do?” she cried, great tears rolling down her cheeks, sobbing loudly. “Will I ever be forgiven?”
The pastor smiled at her and said, “Of course, dear woman, but you must do a penance first. Then all will be forgiven and forgotten.”
“Tell me, tell me, and I will do it right away,” she said.
“So,” he said, “first you must buy a large down feather pillow. Then you must climb the church belfry. Then take the pillow and cut the top open. Throw every last feather out the belfry windows. Every single one,” he warned, “or you will not find the forgiveness you seek. Then you must go out into the village and pick up every last one of the feathers that the wind took from the belfry. Every single one, for if you do not, if you miss any, you cannot find forgiveness.”
It is much easier to fling out gossip, lies, and rumors like the feathers than taking them back.
Asking for Forgiveness
If you are in a crowd or roomful of friends or strangers, and a conversation gets out of control and you spew nasty, mean, hurtful remarks at someone, you may later decide that you were so wrong that you simply had to ask for the offended person’s forgiveness. That is a start, but now you must ask for forgiveness from everyone who heard the insults. Everyone. It is no good to search for the offended person and apologize when alone. You defamed, insulted, hurt, and embarrassed another in front of others. You cannot expect forgiveness without doing so.
So be fully aware of what you say, and keep your thoughts and mouth under control, for forgiveness is a difficult thing to procure.
What advice would you like to give to the younger generations?
We call on all of our readers to share the timeless values that define right and wrong, and pass the torch, if you will, through your wisdom and hard-earned experience. We feel that the passing down of this wisdom has diminished over time, and that only with a strong moral foundation can future generations thrive.
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