There was once a man who refused to obey his king and was sentenced to die. Before his sentence could be carried out, the man escaped and ran into the forest. He met a lion with a thorn in his paw. The man pulled the thorn out. As the lion was licking his paw, he said, “I am grateful to you. I will never forget what you have done. You will always be my friend.”
Soon after the man was captured by the king’ soldiers and brought back to face his death sentence in the arena. As the crowds roared, the lion leaped out of his cage. Each – the lion and the man – recognized the friend he had made. The lion returned to his den, leaving the man unharmed.
It was bitterly cold as the farmer climbed the path to the high hills to check on his livestock. A rattlesnake lay across the path, nearly frozen.
“Please,” begged the snake, “take me down where it is warmer. Or I shall surely freeze to death.”
“I don’t think so,” said the Farmer. “I would be a fool to trust you.”
But the snake pleaded. “If you will do this thing, I promise that I will not hurt you.”
Having compassion upon the snake, the farmer picked him up and carried him down into the valley and laid him down upon the ground. As the snake warmed up, he wiggled and stretched. He coiled himself up and struck the farmer.
“Why did you bite me?” cried the farmer. “You gave me your word not to harm me.”
“Ah,” said the snake, “but you knew what I was when you picked me up.”
The lion loved out of strength, the serpent betrayed out of weakness, and that is the critical issue of these two. The men in the stories had the same choices: to trust or not to trust a known predator, and each chose the same. Once each made his choice the consequences were out of his hands. The lion and the snake also had the same choices. The lion, a predator by nature, chose loyalty out of strength, not because he had no other choice and not because it was in his nature to do so. The other chose to rationalize the weakness of his betrayal with the excuse that the man knew the risks of trusting a predator. “It is your fault because you knew I could be treacherous. I am not responsible for my actions or the results of them because of my nature.”