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A man in a small village had been found guilty of starting a malicious rumor about another man. This rumor was not only untrue, but had seriously damaged the other man’s reputation and family. As is often the custom in small villages, the accused was taken before the chief of the village who served as a judge and would hear the case and decide the man’s punishment if found guilty.


After hearing the facts of the case, the chief found the accused to be guilty and was now preparing to sentence the man to his punishment. The old, wise chief handed the man a large bag of feathers and told him that his only punishment would be to place a feather on the doorstep of every person to whom he had told the rumor. The man was relieved at such a light punishment and quickly took the bag of feathers and set about his task. Four hours later, the man returned to the king with the empty bag and said, "I completed your task, sir. Is there anything else?"


"Yes, the wise chief replied. Report to me in the morning and I’ll give you the second half of your punishment." The man reported the next morning and was instructed that the second half of his punishment was to gather all the feather back up and place them in the bag. "But sir," the man replied, "didn’t you hear the storm that raged through our village last night? Didn’t you feel the force of the winds that blew? It would be impossible to know where those feathers are now."

The wise old chief raised his index finger and pointed knowingly at the man, "Now you see, my child, the damage that you have done to another. For although you told only a few lies here and there, the storm of gossip took hold of those lies and spread them far beyond your grasp to undo them. You can regret what you said, but you can never fully undo what you’ve said."

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