Chicken Feathers


There was a peasant with a troubled conscience who went to a monk for advice. He said that he had circulated an awful story about a friend, only to find out later that the story was not true. “If you want to make peace with your conscience,” the monk said, “you must fill a bag with chicken feathers, go to every door in the village, and drop at each of them one fluffy feather.”

The peasant did as he was told.

Then he returned to the monk and announced that he had done penance for his folly. “Not yet,” replied the monk, “Take your bag, make the rounds again and gather up every feather that you have dropped.” “But by now the wind has certainly blown them all away,” said the peasant. The monk replied, “So it is when you speak ill of another.”

Dropping Feathers

In 1 Timothy 5:13, the apostle Paul condemns “gossips and busybodies,” those who go about “saying things they ought not to.” You see, the problem with “Did you hear about so-and-so,” is that once you drop that feather, there is no telling where the wind is going to blow it.

Words, once spoken, can never be unspoken.

That’s why Paul commands us in Ephesians 4:29: “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”

We’ve all heard the children’s rhyme, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” We also all know how untrue that is. Words do hurt. Sometimes, words hurt deeply. In fact, hurtful words are so powerful that they can do serious emotional damage to the person targeted by those words. There have even been cases where someone was hurt so deeply by words that they decided life simply wasn’t worth living, so they took their own life.

We must be careful with our words. We must be careful not to drop feathers, because they cannot be picked back up.

The Overflow of the Heart

Jesus Himself told us just exactly how important our words are in Matthew 12:36: “But I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken.” So, according to Jesus, the words that come out of my mouth can literally mean the difference between heaven and hell! There is no question about the importance of our words.

But where do our words come from? Jesus answered that question as well. “For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks” (Matthew 12:34). Our words come from our thoughts! Whatever I’m feeding into my mind and my heart on a regular basis is going to overflow out of my mouth in the things I say.

  • If I think hateful thoughts, I will eventually speak hateful words.
  • If I think loving thoughts, I will speak loving words.
  • If I put positive thoughts into my mind, positive words will come out of my mouth.
  • If I put negative thoughts into my mind, negative words will come out of my mouth.
  • If I feed my mind on God’s word, His words will find their way into my conversations.

“Out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks.”

Our prayer every day should be the same prayer that David uttered in Psalm 19:14: “May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.”

Paul O'Rear Signature

Image Credit:
Peek, by Sakari Niittymaa ( Used in compliance with Creative Commons License CC0 (Public Domain). Used by permission.

Please be respectful of others when posting a comment, even if you disagree with me or with another commenter. I reserve the right to delete any comment that is snarky, offensive, off-topic, or contains profanity. By posting a comment on this blog, you agree to abide by my Comment Policy .

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

4 thoughts on “Chicken Feathers

  1. Truly words to live by, Paul! I thank God for the ability he has given you to write and speak clearly and concisely, in love and with humor, the words which we all need to be reminded of (or if one prefers, “the words of which we all need to be reminded”).

    • Thank you, Mom! [I love the story about Winston Churchill – though many historians and linguists believe it has been incorrectly attributed – that he once responded to someone who criticized him for ending a sentence with a preposition, by saying, “This is the sort of nonsense up with which I will not put.” I think Dad is the one from whom I first heard that story, which makes it even more special.]

  2. I so love this article and the wisdom spoken in it. I pray daily that my Lord will let his spirit guide my thoughts and speech. Thank you, Paul.