February 13, 2009

The Boy Who Cried Wolf

2600 years ago a fable was written, read by generations, understood by none.

The boy cried, Wolf! and the villagers came, but there was no wolf.  And the boy laughed, amused with himself and by their gullibility.  He did it a second time with the same results; and a third time, each time to him more amusing.

But the next time was not a joke, a wolf indeed came, and killed most of the flock, and almost killed him.  Wolf!  Wolf!  But no one came, of course.  It was too many times.

Even when a liar tells the truth, they are never believed.


The winter came, and the villagers were cold and hungry, and many died, for there were no sheep.  An old man from another village shook his head: why was such an important aspect of their survival trusted to a boy?  How much did you expect from a child?

He seemed really mature, observed one man.  And we're really just children ourselves.  We didn't notice much of a difference.

Why continue to leave him in place after the first lie?  Or the second?  Clearly he doesn't take the job seriously.  If you no longer trusted his call, why did you leave him there?  "But we were busy with other things." 

Perhaps you knew wolves were coming, inevitably; there was no stopping them.  And rather than try and fail, you didn't want to be the one blamed.

Or perhaps you expected that because he lied about the wolf, that there was no such thing as wolves.  Not: he lied because there are no wolves.  Since he lied, therefore there are no wolves. 

Other than the solitary boy you left in the field to do a job you didn't trust him to do, what other warning signals were you expecting?

The boy grew up, resentful at the villagers' resentment towards him, what did he do wrong?  He called them and they did not come.   They told him they would.   They lied.  And like the children they are, they took no responsibility-- they tried to blame him.   

The adults in the village failed, the blame is theirs entirely.  Wolves exist, you don't throw a boy to the wolves.  And when you send a boy to do a man's job but still treat him like a boy, then the problem isn't the boy, the problem is you.