STRONGER TOGETHER: The Donkey, the Tiger, and the Lion—A Lesson in Futility

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Last updated: 08/07/2024

"STRONGER TOGETHER" is a weekly column where Tanya explores key issues. This week Tanya discusses the futility of arguing with those who are closed to reason, highlighting the wisdom of choosing battles wisely and moving on from futile debates.

By IMPACT Community Services Managing Director Tanya O'Shea

Tanya O'Shea, IMPACT Community Services Managing Director

A simple yet profound story from the animal kingdom offers a timeless lesson on the futility of arguing with those who are closed to reason or truth. The story goes like this:

One day, a donkey told a tiger, “The grass is blue.” The tiger, bemused, replied, “No, the grass is green.” Their debate grew increasingly heated, and they decided to submit the matter to arbitration, seeking the wisdom of the lion, the king of the jungle.

As they approached the lion on his throne, the donkey began to scream, “Your Highness, isn’t it true that the grass is blue?” The lion, seeing the situation for what it was, replied, “If you believe it is true, the grass is blue.” Overjoyed, the donkey continued, “The tiger disagrees with me, contradicts me, and annoys me. Please punish him.” The lion then declared, “The tiger will be punished with three days of silence.”

The donkey, triumphant, leapt with joy and left, chanting, “The grass is blue, the grass is blue...”

The tiger, perplexed, asked the lion, “Your Majesty, why have you punished me? After all, the grass is green.” The lion replied, “You’ve known and seen that the grass is green.” Confused, the tiger asked, “So why do you punish me?” The lion answered, “This has nothing to do with the question of whether the grass is blue or green. The punishment is because it is degrading for a brave, intelligent creature like you to waste time arguing with an ass, and on top of that, you came and bothered me with that question just to validate something you already knew was true!”

The key message of this story lies in its simple yet powerful moral: it is pointless to argue with someone who is uninterested in truth or reality, but only in the righteousness of their beliefs or illusions. When faced with such obstinance, intelligence is best demonstrated by moving on, not by engaging in futile debates.

In our daily lives, we all operate from our own set of beliefs, which shape our perception of reality. Recognising that our version of reality is based on our beliefs, which are inherently flawed and imperfect, can help us remain open to different views and perspectives. This self-awareness is not always easy to achieve and requires effort, compassion, and a willingness to understand others. However, it is a worthy pursuit, for it fosters deeper connections and a better understanding of ourselves.

The story of the donkey, the tiger, and the lion can be applied to various aspects of our daily lives. In a professional setting, we often encounter colleagues who are adamant about their opinions, even when evidence suggests otherwise. Engaging in endless debates with such individuals can be unproductive. Instead, focusing on constructive dialogue and solutions is a more efficient use of time and energy.

In our personal lives, disagreements are inevitable. However, recognising when a discussion is turning into a fruitless argument can save relationships from unnecessary strain. Sometimes, it is better to agree to disagree and respect differing viewpoints.

Online platforms are breeding grounds for heated debates, often fuelled by misinformation and rigid beliefs. Knowing when to step back from such arguments can preserve mental peace and prevent unnecessary stress.

Understanding that our perception of reality is subjective encourages humility. It reminds us to question our own beliefs and remain open to learning and growth. This mindset can lead to personal development and a more harmonious existence with others.

When addressing broader social issues, it is crucial to engage with those who are willing to listen and collaborate. Wasting energy on those who are fixated on their misconceptions can detract from meaningful progress.

Ultimately, the wisdom of the lion teaches us that not all battles are worth fighting. By choosing our battles wisely and avoiding futile arguments, we can conserve our energy for more productive and meaningful endeavours. Embrace the wisdom of the lion, and let intelligence guide your actions, especially when faced with the stubbornness of ignorance.

Please note: This website may contain references to, or feature images, videos, and voices of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples who have passed away.

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