Thursday, August 10, 2017

The King, the Counselor and the Wild Dogs

There once was a tyrannical king who had a pack of wild vicious dogs. If anyone ever spoke evil of him or publicly disagreed with him, he would throw that person into a pit with those dogs to be eaten alive.

One day the king discovered that his Counselor, who disagreed with one of his policies, had expressed his disagreement in public. The king was furious and ordered his guards to bring the Counselor into the court. When the Counselor was brought in, the King said, “because of your treasonous words you are sentenced to death. At sunset, you shall be thrown into the pit with my wild dogs to be eaten alive. Do you have anything to say for yourself?” 

The Counselor humbly replied, “Oh merciful King, please grant me ten more days to live, one day for each year that I have faithfully served you. The King said, “I will grant you this request, but in ten days you will surely be thrown into the pit with my wild dogs. Go now and put your house in order.” 

After sentencing, the Counselor secretly went to the guard who looked after the dogs and told him he would like to watch over the dogs for the next ten days. The guard, not knowing what had transpired in court, was baffled at the request, but agreed. For ten days the counselor fed the dogs, petted and played with them, and provided them with all sorts of comfort.

When the ten days were over, the king ordered his guards to fetch the Counselor. At sunset, a huge crowd of people assembled around the pit to watch the execution. When the Counselor was thrown into the pit, however, all were surprised to see the wild dogs only licking the Counselor, wagging their tails and seeking affectionate pets.

The King was amazed at what had happened, and being superstitious, thought to himself, “this is a sign from God that I should let my counselor live”.

But then the Counselor rose from petting the dogs, straighten himself, pointed his finger at the King and boldly spoke these words: “I served you faithfully for ten years, yet you sentenced me to death only because I disagreed with you. These dogs I served for only 10 days and now I am their friend. Are you not better than these wild animals?”

On hearing these words, the king’s face and ears turned red with humiliation. He looked intently at his the counselor and said, “I realize that I have made a grave mistake.“

Turning to the guards he said, “throw this insolent man to the crocodiles instead.”

The Moral of the Story

Have you ever tried to win an argument? Did you succeed? It is very hard to win an argument even when you are 100% right; and most of the time you are partly wrong.

If you find yourself trying to win an argument -- stop. Not only is trying to win an argument unproductive, it can also be very destructive for a relationship.

 One alternative is to practice deep compassionate listening. Listen with only one purpose, to help the other person empty their heart. By helping someone to empty their heart you reduce the amount of suffering that they are experiencing and tame the wild dogs of bitterness in their heart. This is why it is called compassionate listening.

This is a very hard thing to do. Especially when you are in need of compassionate listening yourself. As you listen to the other person you may hear things that indicate misperception, hypocrisy or other character flaws. Resist your need to respond to these things and remember that your purpose in listening is to reduce suffering. If you find yourself in the wrong, or partly in the wrong, say so.

Seek first to understand, then to be understood. But don’t be in a hurry to be understood, because if you are, then you are again trying to win the argument. Keep listening with compassion and wait for another time to be understood. When the timing is right for you to be understood, be careful not to attack the character of the other person, or you will be thrown to the crocodiles.

Other Morals of the Story

Speak not, unless what you have to say improves upon the silence. -- Gandhi

When it comes to overcoming bigotry, making friends is more effective than pointing fingers and trying to win arguments. Making friends softens hearts, pointing fingers hardens hearts, and winning arguments is impossible. -- Randy Stimpson

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