Everyone has been hurt or disappointed at some point in his life and that hurt is often caused by the people that one is closest to. As a parent it is especially difficult to watch as your child gets her feelings hurt.
It is also difficult to help your children process these events in a way that is rational and reasonable, especially when, as a parent you don’t feel even a little rational or reasonable.
In the wake of these emotional storms, it is easy to overreact and, in doing so, make the situation even worse. Over the many years that I have worked with young people I have shared a fable that probably provides the most rational explanation around friendships and other close relationships.
Consider the fable of the porcupine family; it goes like this. Many years ago, one of the coldest winters ever hit the Great North Woods. Day after day the bitter winds blew and ever more snow piled up on the ground and the trees. A community of porcupines was especially hard hit as pine boughs that hung low on the many conifers in the forest and provided shelter for them lay mostly on the ground covered with snow. In their usual comings and goings the porcupines began to notice that a remarkable number of their neighbors were missing.
A community committee was formed and they found that their neighbors had perished in the bitter cold without shelter. It was decided that every porcupine in the community would come together in an effort to keep each other warm and alive. So it was, they all huddled in close and in doing so, no other porcupines perished from that time forward. Soon, all the porcupines noticed small wounds on their bodies from each other’s quills.
A few porcupines decided that these injuries, though small and unintentional, could not be tolerated. Sadly, more porcupines followed until nearly half their number left the safety of the group and in the end perished. The few that survived returned to the safety of the group and in doing so, survived the most bitter winter the Great North woods had ever seen.
As humans, we too injure each other, both unintentionally and sometimes intentionally. Though there might be quite a few that would argue this, I don’t believe that relationships are necessarily about a connection between two or more perfect people.
Honestly, is there really a perfect person that you know or have ever heard of?
Yes, there are quite a few people that are self important, always right, moralizing gas-bags, still, they are far from perfect. Ouch, could you feel my quills?
The lesson of the porcupine community is to accept that in close relationships there will be hurts along with minor and not so minor emotional injuries.
As humans, if we abandon every person that rubs us the wrong way or offends us with small insults or differences of opinion, we will all be very lonely.
In healthy relationships differences are often appreciated or even celebrated. What a boring and bleak world it would become if everyone held the same beliefs about everything.
My hope is that the human community can become as rational as the porcupine community, especially now that we are living in such a precarious time. Someday, our survival may depend on our ability to come together to support everyone in every community without regard to race, religion, political affiliation or economic status. So, keep your quills low and if someone’s quills get you, get over yourself, give them the benefit of the doubt, it may have been unintentional.
Remember, all kids count.
Reach the writer at firstname.lastname@example.org.