The story is told of a woman (it could have been a man, for that matter) that approached a priest for the Sacrament of Confession. The priest asked if she had any particular sins she wanted to confess. She informed him that she was a happily married woman, who took care of her children, who regularly worshipped in the church which she generously supported, etc. But there was just one thing that she wanted to share even though, in her opinion, it wasn’t very serious. When the priest inquired as to what this was, she informed him that she occasionally engaged in gossip.
The priest told her that if she wanted to be forgiven, she had to do something specific. She agreed. He told her to go and purchase twelve live pigeons, place them in a cage and bring them to the church the next day. The woman found this request quite strange, but did as directed. The next day, she brought the cage containing the pigeons to the priest who then directed her to open the cage and let the pigeons free. The woman did as she was told and the pigeons flew away in all directions. The priest told her that to receive forgiveness she had to find the pigeons that she had set free. When the woman protested that this was unfair----it was simply impossible to find the twelve pigeons that had flown in every direction!----the priest told her that gossip is similar. Gossip is character assassination; it is vengeful; it is evil. You cannot be sure of the veracity of its contents, or the psychological and spiritual health of its source. Once you pass on gossip or slander about someone, you can never take it back.
Next time you receive an email, or letter or telephone call, or read something in a newspaper concerning a particular person or situation, don’t be anxious to pass it on. More than likely, it contains only one side of the story, and you don’t know the motives of the author. By passing on any sort of gossip, all you are doing is exactly what the woman in the above mentioned story did when she freed the birds from the cage and could not retrieve them. Think about that. Remember this: “Let everyone sweep in front of his/her own door and the world would be a better place” (Johann Wolfgang VonGoethe 1794-1832).