There is great wisdom in the Bible. One of my practices in my daily quiet time is to read the chapter of Proverbs that corresponds to the day of the month. There are 31 chapters so every month is completely covered. Then there is also Songs of Solomon, and Ecclesiastes both excellent observations about life.
There is secular literature that teaches great lessons as well. One of the more entertaining books to read is Fables of Aesop. These are short stories that teach a valuable lesson that should be thought about. One that comes to mind today is the fable about the Man, the Boy, and the Donkey. Here is the fable.
A Man and his son were once going with their Donkey to market. As they were walking along by its side a countryman passed them and said: “You fools, what is a Donkey for but to ride upon?”
So the Man put the Boy on the Donkey and they went on their way. But soon they passed a group of men, one of whom said: “See that lazy youngster, he lets his father walk while he rides.”
So the Man ordered his Boy to get off, and got on himself. But they hadn’t gone far when they passed two women, one of whom said to the other: “Shame on that lazy lout to let his poor little son trudge along.”
Well, the Man didn’t know what to do, but at last he took his Boy up before him on the Donkey. By this time they had come to the town, and the passers-by began to jeer and point at them. The Man stopped and asked what they were scoffing at. The men said: “Aren’t you ashamed of yourself for overloading that poor donkey of yours and your hulking son?”
The Man and Boy got off and tried to think what to do. They thought and they thought, till at last they cut down a pole, tied the donkey’s feet to it, and raised the pole and the donkey to their shoulders. They went along amid the laughter of all who met them till they came to Market Bridge, when the Donkey, getting one of his feet loose, kicked out and caused the Boy to drop his end of the pole. In the struggle the Donkey fell over the bridge, and his fore-feet being tied together he was drowned.
“That will teach you,” said an old man who had followed them:
“Please all, and you will please none.”
It is not difficult to see the wisdom in this fable. The man and son were doing nothing wrong walking alongside the donkey as they went to market. We don't know the age of the boy but apparently he was old enough to help his father when they decided to carry the donkey so he wasn't a small child.
Along the way they encounter people expressing their opinion. In meekness the father responds to each one. However it ends in tragedy since they lose the donkey and the donkey drowns. If they had not listened to the opinions of others they would have made it to market in tact, all would be well, and no one would be worse for the wear.
There is a balance that must be considered. Balance is one of my key words for life. My children grew up hearing often about having a balanced view.
We need balance between responding to someone's opinion and stubbornly sticking to our own. Certainly there are times that we are blinded by our view and considering someone else's opinion can be a benefit. We also need to realize that we aren't proficient on every subject and probably not on any subject. By that I mean we can always learn even if we have years of study and experience.
But we must also be careful to not forgo our own views for the purpose of pleasing another.
There is one person we should always seek to please and that is The Creator, The Supreme Being, God/Jesus Christ/ the Holy Spirit. This God, the only God, is all truth, all wisdom, and in Him is no error, no deception, no self-serving attitude. What He says can be trusted. Besides His being the perfect source of wisdom and knowledge, He is also the final arbiter.
Too often in life we suppress our views for someone else's. As I've already written there are occasions when we should but to always assume someone is more "right" than I or should be pleased even when it's obvious they are wrong or misinformed is a mistake. I also concede that there are times when it is the better part of wisdom to forgo our preferences to "keep the peace".
God made us fearfully and wonderfully. We are intelligent creatures who can think. We can embrace the knowledge and wisdom of another but only when they have shown themselves trustworthy. We can trust our own ideas as we take time to read and research. It is a dreadful mistake to live our lives pleasing others. Strive to be pleasing but don't make pleasing others your goal.
It is an easy idea to grasp that at the end of life there will be a reckoning of how we lived our life. Most cultures have some concept of this occurrence upon death with a corresponding reward or punishment. It only seems fair or just. The Bible teaches that there is a judgement when we pass. When we think of that passing and ultimate judgement, isn't it logical to live in such a way that our life pleases the final judge? When I go to a civil or criminal court on earth would I not want the presiding judge to be favorable to my actions? Regardless of what the prosecution thinks about me, says about me, or can prove about me it is the judge (sometimes as a jury) who will decide my fate, not the prosecutor.
As so it is eternally. It is not your friend, family member, boss, or neighbor who will be sitting on the judgement seat when you die. Nor is it your pastor, deacon, Bible teacher, or elder. The only one deciding your fate is God. Thus live to please Him since it is He who will be measuring your actions.
The last line of the fable quotes an old man who had followed the three and watched all that transpired. After the fact he states, "Please all and you will please none." An even better adage is "Live to please The One!"
“I live before the audience of One-before others I have nothing to gain, nothing to lose, nothing to prove.” Os Guinness