Once, there was a woman who liked to gossip. She gossiped all the time about people she knew and people she did not. One day, she found herself gossiping about a man she hardly even knew. That night, the woman had a dream where a great hand appeared above her and pointed down at her. This action filled her with an overwhelming sense of guilt.
So, the next day, the woman went to confession. She told the priest the whole story of the man and the dream. Then, she proceeded to ask many anxious questions. “Is gossiping a sin? Should I be asking for forgiveness? Have I done something wrong?”
The priest explained to her simply, “Yes. You have bore false witness against your neighbor.”
Then, the woman asked for forgiveness and swore to never gossip again.
However, the next Sunday, she found herself back in confession for gossiping.
And, the next Sunday.
And, the next.
And, the next.
Until a whole month went by, and the woman came back, yet again, to confess that she was still gossiping.
To help the woman with her problem, the priest gave her a set of strange instructions. “On a windy day, take a feather pillow and go to the roof of the tallest building you have access to. Then, take a knife and cut the pillow open, and dump out every last feather. After you have finished, go down and collect every feather that fell from the pillow case.”
Distraught with terror, the woman proclaimed out, “I cannot! The feathers will go everywhere, and I would never be able to find every last one! That is impossible!”
“That, my dear,” explained the priest, “Is gossip.”
– Paraphrased from the movie “Doubt”, and the tale it is derived from.