The zen monk and the scorpion

Often a time we hear, read, think or feel that being good doesn’t pay. Some of us feel disappointed or frustrated when an act of kindness is not met with the reaction that we expected or, even worse, when our act of kindness comes back to “bite” us in the rear end. This is the reason why I decided to share the following story both as an “antidote” to the bitterness we might feel when our good deed is not welcomed with gratitude and as a “shield” we can use to protect ourselves when we do what feels right but are not sure of the reaction.

A Zen monk crossing a river with his disciples saw a scorpion that had fallen into the water and was helplessly carried away by the current struggling to keep his head above water. Without a second thought he decided to save it. The minute he picked it up, the scorpion snapped at him and stung him. Instinctively, because of the pain, the monk let go of the scorpion, which fell back into the river.

The monk tried several times to get it out of the water, but every time the monk’s hand approached it, instinctively the scorpion stung him again.

One of the students who were witnessing the scene asked the monk, “Excuse me, teacher, but every time you try to save the scorpion, you get stung. Why do you keep going this?”

The monk replied, “The instinct of the scorpion is telling it to sting me to protect itself. It sees me as an enemy. It can’t help it. It’s in his nature. Nevertheless, I won’t let its nature change mine.”

He then took a leaf floating on the river and pulled the scorpion out of the water saving its life… Then he turned to the student and said:

“Never change your kind nature. If someone is hurting you, just take precautions. Even if someone is ungrateful for the benefits you offer them, that is no reason for you to stop doing good or abandon the love you have inside.”

Photo by Constant Loubier on Unsplash

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