I once heard a story about a woman who struggled with gossip. It wasn't really a struggle, because she didn't really fight. Every day she would share "the latest news" of what was going on in everyone else's life. There was no filter. She was a sweet old woman and easy to talk to, so everyone came to her with their troubles. Many people knew that she couldn't keep her mouth shut, but they loved her and knew that she meant no harm, so they let it go.
That wasn't the lady's only problem though. Her lack of a filter extended much further than that. This woman also gave plenty of unsolicited advice. If you had a problem, she would always tell you what she thought you needed to do to fix it. In that sense, listening wasn't really her thing. Again, however, people knew that she meant well, so they let it go.
But one day the woman inadvertently went too far. She told secrets that were too personal, she gave advice that was too blunt. Then, those around her reacted with horror and hurt. The woman was devastated and hurried to Confession to seek advice from her pastor.
He advised her to take a bag of feathers and spread them all around town, then to go back the next day and gather them up. The woman didn't really understand the point of the exercise, but she knew that her pastor was a wise man and so she followed his advice. She scattered the feathers throughout her little town and the next day went to gather them up again. But she was only able to find twelve feathers. All the others had blown away, or were picked up by someone else. Later that day, she went to her pastor and asked him about the little exercise.
He likened words to the feathers. Once you spread them, it is very difficult to gather them back up again.
I am not this woman. I am not the cute, sweet, lovable, reckless, old lady.
I do struggle with being careless with my speech. I say struggle because it's something that I've been working on for as long as I can remember. That said, I've made minimal progress. Just so you know, I am working on it.
And if you're like me and don't know when to keep your mouth shut, remember that words are very powerful and that once they are said, they can never be unsaid.