Friday Fable: Aesop’s “THE DROWNING BOY”* 


Posted by jlubans on November 09, 2012

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“A boy had gone down to the river to bathe but because he didn't know how to swim, he was in danger of drowning. The boy then saw a man walking by and called to him for help. As the man was pulling the boy out of the water, he said, 'If you don't know how to swim, why on earth did you dare to try these swollen river waters?' The drowning boy replied, 'Right now I just need your help; you can lecture me about it afterwards!' 
The fable shows that people who lecture someone during a moment of crisis are offering criticism that is inappropriate and out of place.”

This epimythium (the moral at the end) is, for once, on target. When things are falling apart, don’t waste time on the non-essentials like looking for causes. The drowning boy’s ignorance is the obvious cause, the lesson is also obvious: Learn how to swim or avoid the water.
While it may satisfy an inner need to criticize, my asking someone “What were you thinking?” for some stupid behavior is just another form of blaming or shaming. Better to offer ideas for avoiding future failures or ask the question, “What would you do differently?”

*Source: Aesop's Fables. A new translation by Laura Gibbs. Oxford University Press (World's Classics): Oxford, 2002.

PS. When in Omaha, the public library will lend you a copy of Leading from the Middle.
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