Friday Fable: Aesop’s “THE HORSE AND THE GOATS”*

Posted by jlubans on December 14, 2012

“Sometimes lesser folk are accustomed to speak disparagingly to one another about their superiors; listen to a fable on this topic. 
There were three goats who saw a terrified horse running away from a lion. The goats made fun of the horse, and the horse replied, 'O you hopeless fools, if only you knew who was chasing me! Then you would be just as terrified as I am.' 
People with excellent qualities are often insulted by their inferiors.”
Translator’s note: “In Caxton’s telling of the fable, the story concerns 'thre lytyll hedgehogges / whiche mocked a grete hedgehogge / whiche fled byfore a wulf.'”
20121214-Fable 21 illus.jpeg
Caption: A horse from a different fable, but apt nevertheless. Circa 1831. Spode crockery showing Aesop’s "The Horse and the Loaded Ass." Creighton University.
I’d add another moral, even though this fable already has two! "Before you criticize someone, walk a mile in their shoes.” Until you do (figuratively, not literally**) you cannot fully appreciate what’s driving someone else. I recall an unpopular decision I made at work. It involved, as many unpopular decisions do, choosing the “best person” for a job. The departmental staff favored a person I did not believe capable, from past performance, of doing the job. So, I went with my choice, a less popular but, to me, more able manager.
At a subsequent staff meeting the matter came up. Just like the goats, the staff had a righteous good time jibing at me. Overtime, my choice proved to be the right one for the organization, but I suspect the critics still thought it wrong. On reflection, I’d make the decision less unilateral and more collaborative - I’d be less reliant on my “excellent qualities”. Saying that, I understand that a collaborative decision might be far from what I believed initially – with urgent certainty - needed to be done.
Well, that’s probably far afield from Aesop’s fleeing horse and his goat critics – but that’s where the story took me.

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

** “Then criticize them. You'll be a mile away, and you'll have their shoes!"

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