Who Knows What is Good or Bad

Have you heard the story about the farmer and his horse? It is a great one: 

An old farmer lives on his farm with his teenage son. He also has a beautiful stallion that he lovingly cares for. 

The farmer enters his stallion into the annual county fair competition. His stallion wins first prize. The farmer’s neighbors gather to congratulate him on this great win. He calmly says, “Who knows what is good and what is bad?” Puzzled by this reaction, the neighbors go away. 

The next week, some thieves who heard about the stallion’s increased value steal the horse. When the neighbors come to commiserate with the farmer, they find him again very calm and gathered. He says, “Who knows what is good and what is bad?” 

Several days later, the spirited stallion escapes from the thieves and finds his way back to the farm, bringing with him a few wild mares he has befriended along the way. To his neighbours’ excited rounds of congratulations, the old farmer once again says, “Who knows what is good and what is bad?” 

A few weeks later, the farmer’s son is thrown off one of these new mares as he is trying to break it in, and his leg is fractured. As the neighbors gather to commiserate with the old farmer, he once again reminds them, “Who knows what is good and what is bad?” 

The following week, the imperial army marches through the village, conscripting all eligible young men for the war that has just broken out. The old farmer’s son is spared due to his fractured leg. The neighbors no longer bother to come to the old farmer to congratulate him. By now they know what his response will be: “Who knows what is good and what is bad?” 

Have you ever been faced with an adversity in your life that seemed overwhelming? Insurmountable? You felt like nothing good would come out of it? And maybe you cringe when someone says to you: “everything happens for a reason” or “it will all work out”,  “you will learn so much from this”, or “it was meant/not meant to be”.

I don’t think anyone wishes for challenges. And I think we decide in our minds that some challenges are much worse and you would have preferred the challenge that someone else got as it seems much easier. 

However you view it: challenges, trials, adversity… they are not wanted.  No two ways about it.

And whether you like or don’t like the cliché versions of why challenges happen, unfortunately really doesn’t matter. Your challenge doesn’t care what you think, feel, like or dislike. It is there. It is reality and it will “run its course.”

Your only power is to decide what you will do while “it runs its course”.

I love the story of the stallion because I love how the farmer doesn’t  get all excited saying, “Yay! This challenge is a good thing!”. But he doesn’t fall to pieces right away either. No, he stays neutral. He is open to the idea that it could be a bad thing or a good thing. He is open to the possibility that something  good could come out of a situation that is seemingly not so good. 

We have the choice of how we will face our challenges. Maybe we aren’t going to face them with excitement. Maybe we won’t face them with despair. But maybe it  is possible to face them with openness and try the farmer’s attitude of “who knows what is good and what is bad”.