Use Adversity As a Stepping Stone: The Parable of the Wise Old Mule

Adversity causes some men to break, others to break records. William A. Ward

We all have challenges that crop up, we all hit roadblocks or situations that seem overwhelming or even hopeless.  And in each instance, we have a choice. We can give in to the fear, the frustration, the sense of hopelessness or we can use each difficult situation as a springboard to rebound and come out stronger.

One of my favorite parables is the one of the farmer and the wise old mule… It’s been told and retold countless times, but it’s a great reminder that often the problems we face also have the potential to benefit us.

A parable is told of a farmer who owned an old mule. The mule fell into the farmer’s well. The farmer heard the mule ‘braying’ — or whatever mules do when they fall into wells. After carefully assessing the situation, the farmer felt sorry for the mule, but decided that neither the mule nor the well was worth saving. Instead, he called his neighbors together and told them what had happened and asked them to help haul dirt to bury the old mule in the well and put him out of his misery. 

Initially, the old mule was hysterical! But as the farmer and his neighbors continued shoveling and the dirt hit his back, a thought struck him. It suddenly dawned on him that every time a shovel load of dirt landed on his back: he should shake it off and step up! This is what the old mule did, blow after blow. “Shake it off and step up… shake it off and step up… shake it off and step up!” he repeated to encourage himself. 

No matter how painful the blows, or distressing the situation seemed, the old mule fought “panic” and just kept right on shaking it off and stepping up! You guessed it! It wasn’t long before the old mule, battered and exhausted, stepped triumphantly over the wall of that well! What seemed like it would bury him, actually end up blessing him. – Author Unknown

And how often does it hold true in our own lives? Sometimes, it’s not easy to see that silver lining.  And often, to see it, you need to look at the adversities you face from a completely different angle.  So next time you feel discouraged, ask yourself how you can use adversity as a stepping stone to success.

Do you have a parable or story you love or that inspire you?  I’d love to hear your thoughts!

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