Build Your Leaders

Postcard from Asheville

May 2011

I’ve been thinking about attachment recently. Too often, I get attached to a specific outcome. I’m trying to remember that when I do this I limit my options. Something better might be waiting in the wings, something so wonderful that I haven’t even imagined it yet.

I am also trying to remember that when something I label “bad” happens, it really might be good. There’s a wonderful story that illustrates this point.

There once lived a farmer who had a son and a horse. One day the farmer’s horse ran away. All his neighbors came to console him. “What bad luck your horse ran away,” they said. 

The old man replied, “Who knows if it’s bad luck or good luck?”

“Of course it’s bad luck!” cried the neighbors.

Within a week, the farmer’s horse returned home, followed by twenty wild horses. The farmer’s neighbors came to celebrate. “What good luck you have,” they said.

The old man replied, “Who knows if it’s bad luck or good luck.”

The next day the farmer’s son was riding among the wild horses and fell and broke his leg. The neighbors came to console his father saying, “What bad luck!”

And the farmer said, “Who know if it’s bad luck or good luck.” 

Some of the neighbors were angry and said, “Of course it’s bad luck, you silly old fool!”

Another week went by, and an army came through town enlisting all the fit young men to fight in a distant land. The farmer’s son with his broken leg was left behind. All the neighbors came to celebrate saying, “What good luck that your son was left behind!”

And the farmer said, “Who knows?”

This month, we’ll discuss a new way of welcoming “uninvited guests.”  


Welcoming Uninvited Guests

When a client comes into Jungian analyst Robert Johnson’s office with a problem so big it feels like it will break the client’s back, Johnson offers to take half of the burden. That’s an offer most clients are eager to accept.

Johnson explains, “The half that I take off is the rebellion against the process, the situation as it is.” Once he or she stops struggling, half the burden dissipates. All that’s left is the half that remains.

To stop struggling may seem counterintuitive. The American way is to fight. Surrender is for sissies. Yet when we fight the difficult situations that arise in our lives, we turn our lives into battlefields. We only magnify the burden. More often than not, the situation will pass in time.

Sometimes, bad situations don’t pass. Like invited guests, problems linger. My friend Bill Petz knows this all too well; he has Parkinson’s disease. Recently, he wrote a beautiful piece for his church that he appropriately titled, “Uninvited Guest.”

He wrote:

“I’ve chosen to see my Parkinson’s disease as just that, an invited guest in my body and in my life. Given that perspective, I feel that I am bound by the ancient code of hospitality that dictates that I must welcome the stranger, be a good host, and provide for the guest. The guest, in turn, is bound not to abuse the welcome offered by the host. Such welcoming creates understanding, mutual benefit, and compassion.”

Bill believes that we are called to become the person we were born to be, and that means accepting whatever comes along in life. The good and the bad.

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