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There's a story I've heard told in different ways but it always ends with the same lesson.
It seems that a prominent church member saw a younger woman leaving the pastor's office one morning before office hours. The younger woman was disheveled, and due to the early hour, the older woman thought this was odd.
Later the older woman heard that the younger woman was divorcing her husband. She told her friends about the early morning incident. They speculated that the younger woman was having an affair with the pastor. Soon this rumor spread throughout the congregation.
The older woman then found out that the rumor was false. The couple wasn't getting a divorce after all. The younger woman had been suffering from depression and had spent the night counseling with the pastor and his wife in his office. Because of the gossip, the reputation of both the younger woman and pastor had been severely damaged. The older woman went to the pastor and asked how she could rectify the situation.
The pastor replied, "I want you to take a feather pillow to the top of a high hill, rip it open and scatter the feathers upon the wind. Then find and pick up every feather."
"That's impossible," exclaimed the older woman.
"That's right," replied the pastor. "That is what happens when you spread gossip. It is impossible to contact and change the opinion of every person who heard it."
Points to build on
1. Gossip can be attractive like a forbidden fruit
Proverbs 18:8 Proverbs 18:8The words of a talebearer are as wounds, and they go down into the innermost parts of the belly.
American King James Version× "The words of a talebearer are like tasty trifles, And they go down into the inmost body."
2. Gossip can do incalculable damage to a person's reputation and relationships.
Proverbs 16:27-28 Proverbs 16:27-28  An ungodly man digs up evil: and in his lips there is as a burning fire.
 A fraudulent man sows strife: and a whisperer separates chief friends.
American King James Version× "An ungodly man digs up evil, And it is on his lips like a burning fire. A perverse man sows strife, And a whisperer separates the best of friends."
3. Gossip is the fuel of conflict and those who spread it like to kindle conflict.
Proverbs 26:20-21 Proverbs 26:20-21  Where no wood is, there the fire goes out: so where there is no talebearer, the strife ceases.
 As coals are to burning coals, and wood to fire; so is a contentious man to kindle strife.
American King James Version× "Where there is no wood, the fire goes out; And where there is no talebearer, strife ceases. As charcoal is to burning coals, and wood is to fire, So is a contentious man to kindle strife."
Five questions to ask yourself when you listen to a story about another person.
1. Is it true?
2. Is this story an attempt to destroy a person's reputation?
3. Why is this absolutely necessary for others to know?
4. Why is this person telling me this information?
5. Should I go to the person and seek his or her side of the story?
Remember, dealing with the damage of gossip is like trying to pick up feathers scattered in the wind.