On Confidence

One fine morning, an old man took his horse and set off with his son, because they had to travel to another village together. But they had barely walked a couple of miles when they passed a group of people, and someone shouted out,

“What strange people you are! You have a horse, and you are holding its reins, but neither one of you is riding it!” And the others in the group started laughing.

The old man did not reply and kept on walking, but couldn’t help feeling bothered by the comment. After a while he said,

“Son, I think it will be best if you sit on the horse’s back and I will hold the reins instead.” 

So, the son rode whilst the old man led the horse. But they had not gone far when they passed another group of people talking by the side of the road. Several of them were looking and pointing in their direction. The keen ears of the old man overheard parts of the conversation.

“Just take a look at that! The old man is walking and the boy is riding. Do fathers not teach their children any respect these days?”

It was not long before the father said,

“Son, you had better come down. It is better if I ride the horse.” They swapped places.

At midday they passed a couple of women gossiping together in the street.

“Look, the son has to walk in this heat. What kind of a father is he? Does he have no pity on his son?”

Again, the old man overheard and could not help feeling disturbed. So, after they had gone a little way more, he decided there was only one solution and told his son,

“Let us both ride the horse.”

It seemed as though all was well for a short while, until a final encounter which threw the old man into complete despair. It was a man on his own horse, who shouted at them angrily as he passed.

“How could you do this to an innocent animal? You are much too heavy! Have you no consideration for the poor horse?”

“Sometimes, it is not so easy,” Guruji was saying in conclusion to his story. “If we only listen to what other people are saying and take their gossip seriously, it will be very hard to come to any decision. When we are faced with a choice, we have to learn to apply our own intellect and be firm with our own decisions in life. Sometimes we are swayed far too easily by others.”

How easy it is to relate to that! Perhaps you, like me, admire people who do their thing and couldn’t care less what other people think. That kind of confidence has certainly never come easily to me and I’m not the most decisive person either. Slowly the important lesson begins to sink in that in this life it will never be possible to please everyone, but maybe we all need reminding of this from time to time. As Guruji says, happiness and sadness, and light and darkness are two sides of the same coin, and the same can be said of praise and criticism. It is one of those ongoing lessons in life as far as I am concerned, because it’s all too easy to put important things off, and come up with excuses why it would be easier not to fulfil our purpose in life, or follow our heart today.