Catching Flies.


A farmer in ancient China had a neighbor who was a hunter, and who owned ferocious and poorly trained hunting dogs. They jumped the fence frequently and chased the farmer’s lambs.

The farmer asked his neighbor to keep his dogs in check, but this fell on deaf ears.

One day the dogs again jumped the fence and attacked and severely injured several of the lambs.

The farmer had had enough, and went to town to consult a judge who listened
carefully to the story and said: “I could punish the hunter and instruct him to keep his dogs chained or lock them up. But you would lose a friend and gain an enemy. Which would you rather have, friend or foe for a neighbor?”

The farmer replied that he preferred a friend!

“Alright, I will offer you a solution that keeps your lambs safe, and which will keep your a neighbor a friend.”

Having heard the judge’s solution, the farmer agreed.

Once at home, the farmer immediately put the judge’s suggestions to the test. He took three of his best lambs and presented them to his neighbor’s three small sons, who were beside themselves with joy and began to play with them. To protect his sons’ newly acquired playthings, the hunter built a strong kennel for his dogs. Since then, the dogs never again bothered the farmer’s lambs.

Out of gratitude for the farmer’s generosity toward his sons, the hunter often shared the game he had hunted with the farmer. The farmer reciprocated by sending the hunter lamb meat and cheese he had made. Within a short time the neighbors became good friends.

A saying in old China went something like this: One can win over and influence people the best with gestures of kindness and compassion.

A similar American saying: One catches more flies with honey than with vinegar!!

14 thoughts on “Catching Flies.”

  1. Many possible reactions to what is a rather good story come to mind.

    One: How interesting that being devious sometimes pays dividends to BOTH, the deceiver and the deceived.

    Two: On what sort of foundation does a friendship rest if based on deception, even a harmless one? Dangerous game. Might come to haunt you back on a stage in Stratford-upon-Avon (Shakespeare).

    The judge was clever. No doubt about it. Clever in the way the law often is NOT – not least when it comes to ‘mutually beneficial’ arrangements.

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  2. Hi Rummy,

    The morals of this story, unfortunately, only applies to certain situation in life. I can think of a hundred events where this wouldn’t work; and moreover, this story raises the question of intent. The neighbour had no intention to see his dogs attacking his neighbour’s lambs, he was simply careless, egocentric even; but the other’s wisdom shifted his carelessness into care. But what happens when a neighbour bears the intent to hurt? The wise one can do whatever he wants, use as much honey and compassion he wants, that it will not work due to intent to harm.


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    1. You are right of course. At Macro levels we can come up with many situations with similar decisions that have resulted in more chaos and loss of lives. But once in a way, getting back to our humanity is like the first drink of water after a long hike!

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