Once upon a time there lived a bear in a cave deep in the woods. Nearby was a meadow in which a farmer kept his cattle — and one large, ferocious-looking bull. Each day the bear hid at the edge of the woods, watching the bull. The bear was known as the strongest, most fierce creature for miles around. No other beast in the forest dared to tangle with him. As the bear watched the bull peacefully gazing, he wondered which one of them would win a test of strength. He thought about this for many days. Then one morning he decided to challenge the bull to a fight to the finish.
The bull had just chomped down on a fresh clump of clover when he looked up and saw the bear barreling across the meadow toward him. He stopped chewing. The red flag of danger popped up in his head. The bear skidded to a halt in front of him. The bull lowered his head menacingly, his sharp horns aimed right for the bear’s throat. For long moments they stood in place — eyeball to eyeball — neither one of them moving. Finally the bull grew tired of the stare-down and asked, “What do you want, Bear?”
“I want to fight you,” growled the bear.
“Why?” asked the bull.
“Because, I want to prove that I am a stronger and better fighter than you are.”
The bull laughed. “I thought you really wanted something. You can’t possibly win against me. I have sharp horns that can cause terrible injuries.”
“And my claws are sharp and quick,” the bear shot back. “I have defeated many an enemy — anyone who would harm my cubs or take away my mate. I am the king of the forest!”
“Then go back to the forest,” the bull bluntly advised. “This is the meadow.”
The bear blinked in surprise. “I beg your pardon…”
“I mean, what’s the point of me fighting with you?” the bull asked. “What would that prove? We are not enemies. I have not harmed your cubs or taken your mate.”
“It would prove that I am the strongest.”
“Okay,” said the bull, smiling. “I’ll buy that. You are strongest. Now leave and let me graze in peace.”
“Just one cotton-pickin’ minute. What do you mean by that?” The bear raised a club-like paw. “I will tear you to shreds. Defend yourself.”
“What you do is up to you,” the bull answered calmly. “But if you do, what will all your friends — the ones who are watching us right now — think about you?”
“They will think that I am the strongest,” yelled the frustrated bear.
“I don’t think so. I do not choose to fight you just because you choose to fight with me. I would only fight to defend one of the cows in my care. If you attack one of them, then I’d be obliged to give you a good lashing.”
“I can’t attack them,” protested the bear. “They can’t fight back. There would be no victory to it.”
“Exactly,” answered the bull. “But what if you did? And what if I should try to defend them? What if something should happen to me? Who would protect them then? You? Would you trust me to protect your cubs if something happened to you? What would happen to your family if you lose the fight?”
“I never thought of that,” said the bear.
“Go back into the woods, Bear,” said the bull as he turned to walk away. “Live in peace. And I will stay in the meadow and do the same.”
The bear turned toward the woods. He had come spoiling for a fight — to prove which one was the strongest. But he had learned an important lesson from a very wise bull. In peace, there are no losers.
Starting a quarrel is like breaching a dam; so drop the matter before a dispute breaks out. (Proverbs 17:14 NIV)
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