A Lesson in Humility That Resulted in Death

I’ve recently read a children’s story. Although somewhat morbid towards the end, the story teaches an excellent lesson in humility, one that we can all learn from.

The story goes as follows:

On the outskirts of a small village, there was a lake. It was mostly left alone, except for the occasional fishing from a few of the villagers.

In the lake, there were two swans and a turtle — all of whom were the best of friends. They would spend time playing and waddling around, pass the days doing what swans and turtles regularly do.

One year, there was a particularly bad drought. There had been no rain and the lake drying up rapidly. Concerned about their future, the trio began discussing.

“I think we need to migrate South. There are several other lakes in this area. They’re farther than I’d like, but if we don’t go, we’re going to run out of water.”

The three of them quickly came to an agreement. It was the best choice, the only choice for survival they really had. When they decided to leave the very next day, they realized a problem. The swans could fly, but what about the turtle? There was no way the turtle would be able to crawl that distance.

So they thought and thought and eventually the turtle came up with an idea:

“I have an idea! What if, the both of you carry a stick that I’ll bite onto and fly me over?”

“That’s a fantastic idea,” exclaimed the swans. “You have to make sure you won’t open your mouth for any reason though, otherwise you’ll falling to your death.”

The turtle agreed, and the trio set off.

As they flew along, passing the village below them, one of the villagers noticed and praised them. “Wow, what clever birds! They’re carrying a turtle on a stick!” The other villagers looked up and many of them also began praising the birds.

The turtle, upset that the birds were being praised for his idea, decided that he needed to let the villagers know. He opened his mouth to explain but before he could say anything, plummeted down and fell to his death.

Had the turtle had kept his mouth shut, he would’ve still been alive.

The truly successful are humble. They’re not concerned with opinions and aim to seek recognition because they realize that eventually, people will come to recognize them for what they have done, for their abilities. They realize that there’s more importance in focusing on the tasks at hand than to bother with what it is that people say.

One of my favorite quotes by Ezra Taft Benson is this: “Pride is concerned with who is right. Humility is concerned with what is right.” What matters isn’t what people say, but rather the actions that you take. The actions you take will speak a lifetime; once done, can’t be undone. The continuous history of the actions you take serves to create your legacy and what contributes to your reputation is the recognition of the actions taken.

A lot of people have a difficult time detaching away from the reputation they’ve built. They worry about what people say, what people think and because of pressures brought forth from the intricacies of social networking, they are pressurized into responding to anything that they think might leave a blemish on their reputation. They are the turtle, forever concerned with who is right, rather than what is right.

You see, reputations are entirely subjective, built upon opinions, consolidated by the word of others and plastered together by assumptions. You can try shaping your reputation, but you can’t control it. There will always be someone out there who disapproves with what you’ve done or how you’ve done it. There will always be someone out there who’ll judge you based on their own experiences. There will always be someone out there who mocks your reputation. If you live life constantly chasing your reputation, you’re going to lose focus on the things that matter — the actions themselves. You’d be giving up golden goose instead of the eggs.

“I’ll take character over reputation. Your character is what you really are, while your reputations is merely what others think you are.” — AJ Perez

The more frequent and greater your actions, the higher the chance that someone will eventually give you recognition for what you want to be recognized for. If the turtle was able to come up with one smart idea, it can come up with more. All it takes is repetition. It doesn’t matter what people say, it doesn’t matter if they assume, it doesn’t matter if they don’t give you credit — you do it long enough, the truth will come out because imitators can never beat the original. People will eventually discover the truth and realize that it’s the turtle that’s smart because of the continuous actions it’s taken to prove its intelligence.

It’ll always be your actions that determine everything. It’s not about reputation or how people see you, but about what you’re doing to establish the very reputation that you want others to see. Reputations may be fixed, but your actions can never be undone. Like George Bernard Shaw once wrote, “Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.”

About the author

Jon Lee

I travel the world in search of lessons worth sharing. Addicted to culture shock and transparency. Currently working on heeyy and duuck.

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