Parable of the porcupine

Brenda Cannon HenleyBy Brenda Cannon Henley
This little story was shared with me this week and I immediately thought of how difficult we find it to get along with certain individuals in our lives. Some are forced on us by way of family connections. Others come by way of an employment situation. Some are neighbors or involved with us in civic and educational interests, and sadly to report, many personality conflicts are found within church organizations. Have you ever been asked to serve on a church committee only to find that at least one member is just downright disagreeable to the plans and suggestions of everyone else? Does one member of the extended family demand his or her own way about all holiday plans and feels the events must revolve around him or her and their family?

We all face these dilemmas. No one is immune. I am surmising that as the column is read all over Southeast Texas and around the world by way of the Internet that folks are thinking in their own minds about one certain individual they must encounter. Or, for some, there may be several with whom they must deal on a regular basis. What is your strategy and how do you manage to keep the relationship peaceable, at least, on the surface where outbursts and conflicts could affect many innocent folks? How do we learn to work with folks that are simply aggravating? Perhaps the story of the little porcupine will help us to make better decisions.

“It was the coldest winter ever. Many animals died because of the cold. The porcupines, realizing quickly their situation, decided to group together to keep warm. This way they covered and protected themselves, but the quills of each one wounded their closest companions.

After awhile, they decided to distance themselves one from the other, and they began to die, saddened, frightened, alone, and frozen. So they had to make a choice — either accept the pointed, sharp quills of their companions, or simply disappear from the earth.

Wisely, they decided to go back to being together. They learned to live with the little wounds caused by the close relationship with their companions in order to receive the heat that came from the other porcupines. In this manner, they were able to survive that cold and relentless winter.”

The best human relationships are not the ones that bring together perfect people, but those where each individual learns to live with the imperfections of others. They learn to find and admire the person’s good qualities and make adjustments to work around those that frustrate and aggravate. The moral of this little story is that we have to learn to get along with the pricks in our lives just like the little porcupines did with their neighbors if we are to live happily and successfully in our homes, businesses, churches, and communities.

Saying it in a different manner might be a bit nicer. We find in Scripture that Paul wrote to the Romans in Chapter 12, Verse 18, “If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men.” We do remember that a parable is an earthly story with a heavenly meaning. I think this one fits nicely.

Brenda Cannon Henley can be reached at (409) 781-8788, or


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