The Rooster and the Horse

The Rooster and the Horse

Dealing with difficult people can be overwhelming, but there are always lessons to learn. I did my share of running from difficult people and situations in the past, but it seemed like that issue followed me around. I would change my circumstances only to find more difficult people and situations. I couldn't outrun the problem.

How do you deal with difficult people or situations in your life?

I sat visiting with a friend the other day, and I could see something worried her.

I didn't pry, but after she talked awhile, she looked at me and asked, "have you ever had to deal with someone who points out your every flaw?"

"Someone," she continued, "who focuses only on your mistakes?"

I nodded with understanding as she added, "I am losing sleep because I am afraid this person will keep me from my promotion or, worse, get me fired."

"You're focusing on the what-ifs," I said. And when my friend looked puzzled, I added, "this situation reminds me of a rooster I had as a kid."

Rooster running through a field.

I could see she questioned the relevance as I started my story, but I continued anyway.

"One of my favorite stories from growing up on a ranch is about a mean rooster named feathers," I said and noticed her settle in to listen.

"Feathers spent much of his life chasing one of our horses. He would focus on that horse's hock and, with wings flapping, he flogged him as the horse ran around the pen.

The funny thing was the horse wasn't running around because the rooster was chasing him. He ran because he wanted to be turned out with the other horses.

To him, the rooster was just a minor annoyance.

So the day finally came when the horse kicked feathers, and we found his lifeless body lying in the middle of the corral.

Now I must confess that was not horrible news since, at some point, we had all fallen victim to this nemesis.

But as someone went to pick up the rooster's body, he slowly raised his head and let out a pathetic "baawwk." And his head flopped back down. Then he lifted his head again and let out another pathetic "baaawwwk." And when he lifted his head a third time, he jumped up and went right back to chasing that horse.

Three horses running.

Feathers was so focused on the horse's hock that he didn't see the big picture. So he did what he knew day after day without knowing why, and it became his identity. He was stuck in a rut, and he refused to change course. He knew he wanted something from the action but wasn't sure exactly what.

The horse wasn't running because of the rooster, but since the rooster got some payback for the effort, he never stopped.

So they were both stuck. They were both imprisoned.

The rooster was imprisoned by want. And the horse was imprisoned by fear. Not a fear of the rooster because he was just a minor annoyance, but a fear of not knowing if or when he would be turned out with the other horses.

It's fear of things we can't control that keeps us bound. It's the what-ifs in life."

"So what did the horse need to do?" She asked.

"He just needed to stop running," I replied.

We sat in silence for a minute before I added, "we are all a work in progress. So regardless of how we handle conflict, we should see these situations as an opportunity for growth."

My friend looked a bit annoyed at the statement, so I continued by asking her a question.

"What do you think the payoff is for this person?"

"I don't know," she said, frustrated, "stealing my job, I guess."

"But how do you react to her?" I asked, "do you show her you're angry? Or do you withdraw?"

"We all handle difficult people or things differently," I said. "For example, some avoid confrontation, while others may overreact and get angry."

"I hate making mistakes, so I guess I do get rather defensive," She responded. "And," she added, "I can always see the satisfaction in her eyes, and it's galling!"

I smiled softly at her. I knew her frustration. I had been in her situation many times, so I continued with empathy.

"I have always noticed that the more I tried to do things perfectly, the more it seemed like people looked for me to make a mistake," I said, "and that is spiritual warfare."

"Well, I want to do the best job I can," she replied.

"I agree, but no matter what you do, you will never be perfect," I softened my voice. "Every time you attempt to do something perfectly, you set a trap for yourself."

"So how do you win that war?" she asked.

"I learned to start any project by saying something like, 'I always aim for perfection, but I have been known to drop the ball now and then,'" I said, "then I would add, 'so if that happens, we will just pick it up and keep moving forward.'"

My friend's face softened as she thought about what I was saying.

"Then, if I made a mistake," she said thoughtfully, "I wouldn't feel so embarrassed."

"Exactly," I replied, "and bonus, the smug looks will lose their sting, and when they no longer bother you, they will stop altogether."

"The greatest source of wisdom we could ever hope for is in the Bible," I said, "part of James 4:6 says, 'God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.'”

"I don't know about you, but I never want God to oppose me."

So how do you deal with conflict in your life, reader?

Make no mistake about it: pride is the great sin. It is the devil’s most effective and destructive tool.

C.S. Lewis