Growing up I had a large anthology of Aesop’s Fables. I had read it so much I still have several memorized: The Goose and the Golden Egg, The Eagle and the Beetle, the wolf in sheep’s clothing, and The Fox and the Stork.
One of my favorites is The North Wind and The Sun. Let’s read it together!
The North Wind and the Sun had a quarrel about which of them was the stronger. While they were disputing with much heat and bluster, a Traveler passed along the road wrapped in a cloak.
“Let us agree,” said the Sun, “that he is the stronger who can strip that Traveler of his cloak.”
“Very well,” growled the North Wind, and at once sent a cold, howling blast against the Traveler.
With the first gust of wind the ends of the cloak whipped about the Traveler’s body. But he immediately wrapped it closely around him, and the harder the Wind blew, the tighter he held it to him. The North Wind tore angrily at the cloak, but all his efforts were in vain.
Then the Sun began to shine. At first his beams were gentle, and in the pleasant warmth after the bitter cold of the North Wind, the Traveler unfastened his cloak and let it hang loosely from his shoulders. The Sun’s rays grew warmer and warmer. The man took off his cap and mopped his brow. At last he became so heated that he pulled off his cloak, and, to escape the blazing sunshine, threw himself down in the welcome shade of a tree by the roadside.
Gentleness and kind persuasion win where force and bluster fail.
(Aesop for Children (translator not identified), 1919. Illustrations by Milo Winter (1886-1956). Available online at Project Gutenberg.)
I’ve belonged to many organizations in college and in my career and I have seen similarities with how people want to accomplish goals. I notice there are people who are The North Wind, and those who are The Sun. It’s so easy to have a goal and want to get it with no holds barred. A lot of people I have worked with were so hung up on their goal that they became angry and bitter when they didn’t accomplish it. They didn’t succeed. And I had to make the choice to stop listening to them. Because while they had good intentions, they let anger set in, and couldn’t face the facts and see that their focus was damaging the very thing they set out to do.
Like the North Wind, who wanted so badly for the traveler to remove his cloak, he was hyper-focused so much on himself he couldn’t see his actions were having the opposite effect.
I am thankful to have worked with people who are like the Sun. They have a goal in mind, but instead of force, they use persuasion and persistence to get the job accomplished. Does it happen immediately? No. In the fable, The Sun shines for a while before the traveler takes off his cloak. At first the cloak was lowered, then he mopped his brow, and finally, he took off his cloak. The Sun was persistent. He knew that as long as he kept shining at a steady rate, the traveler would take off his cloak.
Another difference between The North Wind and The Sun is perspective. The North Wind was focused only on the traveler. The Sun, however, was focused on the larger picture. He didn’t focus on the traveler. He knew that by warming everything around the traveler (including the traveler), the effect would result in the traveler removing his cloak. He had his eyes set on something larger.
We all have been the North Wind at some point, and we all have been The Sun.
What I hope is that whenever we are fighting for a cause, raising awareness, or simply working on a project; that we will focus on having our goal in mind, but instead of becoming hyper-focused and possibly becoming angry, that we will have persistence, gentleness, and persuasion, and a broader view of what is happening to accomplish what we set out to do. This might be misinterpreted as saying you can’t be mad or even angry about something, particularly an injustice. That is not the intention here. Anger is a natural emotion, but acting on it can wreak havoc. Check out this article on what happens to your body when you become angry: http://tvblogs.nationalgeographic.com/2014/08/15/10-facts-about-how-our-brain-gets-angry/
Taking a moment to breathe and calm down is essential because it allows for logic and reasoning and clear thinking to set in.
My hope is that whenever we come across a problem or situation that we will be The Sun, and act in kind persuasion and gentleness, and logic and reasoning. If we do that, we can accomplish what we put on our minds and hearts.