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Oct 182013

I love parables such as Jesus used to teach his followers, and sometimes there are some modern parables that are  as instructive, the following story I think is one of those.

Once upon a time an Indian Chief who was known for his kindness was walking through the forest and he came to a river. Lying on the side of the river was a rattlesnake. In those days animals could talk, so the Chief was not surprised when the snake spoke to him and said “Chief, I know you are a kind man and I desperately need a favor from you. My family is on the other side of this river and I can’t swim, I need to get to them, will you carry me across the river?”

The chief looked at the snake and said, “Mr. Snake, I am a kind man and I have sympathy for those in trouble and have many many times helped even my enemies, but you are a poison snake, and you would bite me and I would die, so no, I cannot pick you up and carry you across the river.”

The snake said to the chief, “Sir, my family will die without me, and if  you will carry me on your shoulders as you wade the water, I promise on  my oath that I will not bite you and I will be forever grateful to you.”

The chief thought about it for a minute and so he finally agreed to take the snake across the water. As they approached the middle of the waterway with the snake safely coiled on the chief’s head high and dry, the snake reached down and bit the chief. The chief in his death throes said to the snake “Why did you break your promise to me not to bite me? Now we will both die here in the river!”

The snake said as they sunk below the waves, “You knew what I was when you picked me up.”

I’ve heard this same story told in many different ways, from a frog convinced to let a scorpion ride on his back across the river to this one, but the moral of the story is always  in the last line “You knew what I was when you picked me up.”

No matter how kind we are to someone who has a poor moral character  as demonstrated by their pattern of past behaviors, we can’t expect them to change that character just because we are kind to them. Good people have bad things happen to them through no fault of their own, and even bad people have bad things happen to them through no fault of their own. That’s life. However, we must be as Jesus admonished his disciples and be “as wise as serpents and as innocent as a doves.” Jesus went on to teach that “by their fruits ye shall know them” using the analogy of fruit trees….a grape vine doesn’t produce figs and a fig tree doesn’t produce grapes. So if a person produces consistently rotten “fruit,” we should be able to observe that that person is not someone we should trust and cultivate.

Sure, none of us are perfect, and even the best fruit tree will have a rotten apple now and again, but the tree that season after season produces rotten fruit is not something that we want in our “garden” of life. Just as a farmer would cut that tree out of his orchard, so we too must prune our lives of those people who continually use and abuse us and not give them the chance to ruin our lives as well as their own.

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  5 Responses to “A modern parable”

  1. Joyce, these parables and mythologies are the only things that come close to really relating the experience of an encounter with liars, deceivers and betrayers.

    A predator is going to use predatory tactics. That means that it tailors it’s predation to the prey’s vulnerability. In this case the snake knew that the chief had a kind and honest character. So he used the pity ploy.

    Most of the abusers in my life, used the pity ploy on me. In most cases, there was rarely very much damage done even when they pulled the rug out. That’s because they were preparing me for the final and ultimate discard. They wanted me to think that I could “handle” anything they could throw at me so that I would continue to accept their BS. In the end, the plan was my death and the only reason I escaped was because I finally saw that nothing was as it seemed.

    The snakes in my life were never really injured, they never really needed my help. The intent, from the beginning was to bite me and insert their poison.

    • Joyce, a terrific parable on every level.

      Sky, 100% spot-on. Predators are predators are predators……..they ARE what they ARE, no matter how badly anyone wants them to be something OTHER than what they ARE.

      ****CAPS intended for emphasis, only.****

      I am also very cautious of pity ploys, and I have made myself VERY cautious about weaving my own – I’ve recently had an issue pop up that I was not expecting. Whether this gets addressed, or not, creates fear for me. Well, that’s kinda too bad because things in Life don’t always go smoothly. SO, I have to be very cautious about how and when I discuss my personal challenges.

      You are absolutely spot-on when you type, “The snakes in my life were never really injured, they never really needed my help. The intent, from the beginning was to bite me and insert their poison.” YES. It’s the INTENT to harm that is always present.

      Regardless of what challenges I’m facing, I’m grateful as all hayell that we are ALL out of our toxic, poisonous, and potentially lethal situations.

  2. When I was responding to some of the posts on the pseudo-victim, it made me think of this story again, and I started to post it as a comment, then I thought, you know I think that concept is imoprtant enough that we need to get that last line tattoo’d on our wrists–YOU KNEW WHAT I WAS WHEN YOU PICKED ME UP.

    Sometimes we might pick up a small “snake” that didn’t look threatening and help it, and it might turn out too be as poison as the rattle snake, but when we pick up something we KNOW is poison and then believe its promise that “Oh, I won’t bite you” we deceive ourselves.

    Now when I encounter someone who says they are a victim, or a former victim, I do feel empathy for them, until such time that I see that they are a “pseudo-victim” and only posing as a victim as a pity ploy, which many of them are excellent at.that game.

    If someone by their character has demonstrated that they will bite others, they will eventually bite you. And no matter how nice you are to a rattle snake, all the love in the world isn’t going to make it grow fur and love you like a puppy. People have a capacity to change, but few have the desire, so until proven otherwise, I use “past behavior” as the indicator of what I can expect in the future from that person. And if I know it is a snake, I will NOT pick it up, no matter what the pitiful story is

  3. You knew what I was when you picked me up

    Too many times in life we try to look past the obvious, believe things could be different if only…. and hold out hope for the wrong things, wrong reasons and wrong ideas

  4. Phoenix, that’s the thing, is that when we KNOW what something/someone is and we then choose for whatever reason to discount that knowledge and go on and “pick them up” KNOWING they are poison, knowing they are dangerous, but somehow convincing ourselves that they might be poison, and have bitten others, but they would NEVER BITE US…that somehow we are special to them.

    Just as a person who dates another person who they know is married, and then expects that the person will never cheat on THEM just their current spouse, they knew what the person was when they picked them up…or in my case I dated a guy who though was divorced HAD cheated on his previous wife…I tried my best to think he would not cheat on ME, well of course I soon found out that I was mistaken…fortunately before I married him.

    So many times we discount EVIDENCE that someone is dangerous but for reasons of our own needs we go ahead anyway and have dealings with that person. I’ve picked up more than my share of snakes in my time, knowing they were snakes, but I’m finally realizing that it doesn’t pay, it NEVER pays. By cutting the people who are not honest out of my life, by getting rid of the “snakes” my life is much more calm and peaceful. Even a poison snake is no danger if you are not close to him. Keeping the poison, toxic, dishonest people at a distance does the same thing, it keeps them from being a danger to you.

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