Two friends are walking along a path when they happen across a rattlesnake. One of the men, pompous and careless, severs the snake with an ax, but not before it bites the foolish man on the wrist. The man wails and flails his arm all about in pain while his companion is immobilized with panic. There is a third man, an experienced hiker several hundred feet away who has witnessed the events. Which one is you and what do you do next?
Perhaps you are the foolish man, filled with bravado who acts violently in the face of latent danger and who is paying the painful price of his folly.
Maybe you are the other man, made powerless with indecision and panic, whirling about uselessly.
Or perhaps you are the experienced hiker, equipped with the knowledge that, although painful, snakebites don’t kill people, it’s their venom. Venom that if not removed, courses through the veins, accelerated by the constant movement and shaking of an ignorant and fearful victim.
This scene is repeated in people’s lives nearly everyday. We’ve all experienced painful situations. We may have antagonized someone who then lashes out at us, or we may have come across trouble unexpectedly and been the victim of a painful blow. Our first inclination is to lash back, to bellow accusations of unfairness and to blame our trespassers. If only we recognized that energy would have been better spent by removing the venom and repairing the damage. How often are we the experienced hiker, witnessing these events yet instead choosing to keep walking rather than help those who are angry, confused or hurting? Even though we have the skills or knowledge that could solve the problem, bring about calmness, alleviate pain, or perhaps even save a life, we decide not to get involved.
Therein sits one of the differences between a leader and a follower. Leaders get involved. They act. They do not shrug their shoulder and sigh, “Oh, well.” They give of themselves, protect people and remove the venom from the veins of others, and teach others to do the same.
When trouble looms before you, what role will you play?