Since I was a young child, I have always loved stories with moral. From Uncle Wiggly to Aesop's Fables, I enjoyed the influence of the metaphorical muse.
One of the most influential stories, for me, was that of Andy and the Lion, the beloved children's book by James Daugherty. Published in 1938, it was a retelling of two other well known stories of courage and compassion; the Bible story of Daniel and the Lions' Den and second century Latin Grammar's Attic Nights tale, Androcles and the Lion. It is also one from which I have gleaned wisdom.
It is a narrative about a boy named Andy who loved lions. He would often go to the library and check out books on lions and stay up late at night reading them. His grandfather would also tell him tall stories about hunting lions in Africa. Every story the grandfather told would end with, “AND THEN I GAVE HIM BOTH BAR-R-R-E-L-L-S!” Andy would dream of going to Africa himself one day and hunting lions.
One morning he started off to school, thinking about lions as usual. As he walked along, swinging his books and whistling a tune, he came to a turn in the road and noticed something sticking out from behind a big rock just at the bend. It looked very strange, so Andy crept up cautiously to investigate.
Suddenly, it moved! It was a lion! And at that moment Andy thought he'd better run! The lion thought he should run too! They both ran around the rock. Whichever way Andy ran – there was the lion. Whichever way the lion ran – there was Andy.
Finally, they stopped for breath. The lion held out his paw to show Andy what was the matter. He had a thorn stuck in his paw. Andy held the paw and looked at the wound. Since Andy had his pliers in his back pocket, he told the lion to be patient, they would have that thorn out in no time. Andy took his pliers and got a tight grip. He pulled with all his might. It wasn't easy, but the thorn…came…out.
Then lion licked Andy's face to show how pleased he was. Andy and the lion became very good friends.
I entered the counseling field dreaming of being a recognized healer. I bought books on relationships and stayed up late at night reading them. I heard tall tales from other therapists. I imagined myself speaking to large groups.
One day I was walking along, carrying my books and whistling a tune. I came to a turn in the road and noticed something sticking out from behind a big rock just at the bend. It looked very strange. I crept up to investigate. Suddenly, it moved. It was Paulette! I thought I should run! Paulette thought she should run too! We both ran around the rock. Whichever way I ran – there was Paulette. Whichever way Paulette ran – there was Me.
Finally, we stopped for breath. Then Paulette showed me what was the matter. She was wounded. I held her and looked at the wound. I told her to be patient, that we would have that wound healed in time. We became very good friends.
It has taken a long time to understand the wisdom of learning from my own story. I guess I felt that counseling was simply another educational venue, and like other educational venues, about absorbing intellectual knowledge and perspective with the goal of imparting it to “the less informed” for their personal development. With that perspective, my own past and story was not part of the equation, even though entering the Counseling field was what helped me with gaining understanding about my past and story.
But I have learned differently. I have learned that it is through valuing my own connection to the world of myself, my humanness, of heart, soul, body, spirit, joy and pain, that I am able to enter the world of another and value its unique depths, heights, breadth and limitations.
Imago Founder Harville Hendrix stated that “the real human tragedy is the turning away from connection”. Like the lion who feared connection because of the wound in his paw, so our own connection is impaired for fear of showing our wounds. And it is only when we turn toward connection with ourselves, our wounds, our stories and find healing, that we can offer the invitation of connection and healing to another.
I have not become a famous healer. I still buy books and at times stay up late reading them. I still hear tall tales from other therapists. I rarely speak in front of groups. But in appreciating that my own story is the one I learn the most from, I feel I have gained connection toward wisdom. And that feeling often has me whistling a tune.
When we deny the story, it defines us. When we own the story, we can write a brave, new ending.
~ Brene Brown
For the Support of Your Life
For the Many Sides of Life
Paulette Jackson lpc-mhsp
photo credit: tervibwf-Blog Archive-Androcles & the lion story in hindi