Look For the Thorn


We meet them every day—people who are unhappy, unfriendly, rude, and sometimes, downright mean. Approaching others from a perch of arrogance and entitlement, they view life with a dismal perspective, often living a distorted sense of reality.

We tend to avoid these unpleasant souls, stepping away from a conversation, leaving the room, or inventing a reason to end a phone call. We build a wall because we know their influence is contagious, so we limit our exposure to these “social irritants,” dismissing them as products of dysfunctional parenting or disadvantaged socio-economics.

That’s one way to look at it.

There’s another consideration. It’s possible these folks are experiencing a personal dilemma—a problem they believe they have no control over. Constantly overshadowing their lives, it might be a dismal medical diagnosis, the loss of a loved one, the end of a relationship, a sick child, or aging parents in need of care.

So what does this have to do with thorns?

Remember the story of Androcles and the Lion? Androcles was a Roman slave who escaped his master and hid in the forest. One day he heard a wild beast crashing through the trees. From the deep-throated growl, he knew immediately . . . it was a lion! Believing he was about to be devoured, Androcles started to run. He’d only gone a short distance before he tripped on a large root, injuring his leg. The lion was on him in seconds.

Unable to escape, Androcles envisioned a brutal attack. But instead of springing on top of him, the lion extended a swollen and bleeding paw. Noticing a large thorn embedded deep into the flesh, Androcles realized the lion was in pain. Knowing he had nothing to lose, Androcles carefully removed the thorn and waited for the lion’s reaction. Filled with gratitude, the lion licked Androcles’ face in appreciation. Leading him to his cave, the lion brought Androcles food until his injured leg was healed.

There’s more to the story …

A few months later, Androcles was captured. As was the custom of the time, he was sentenced to be thrown to the lions as punishment for escaping his master.

On the day of his execution, Androcles was led into the middle of the arena. A single lion was released, and the animal rushed toward him, roaring in dominance. But as the lion poised to pounce, the animal recognized Androcles as the man who had removed the thorn a few months earlier. Instead of attacking him, the lion laid down before Androcles in gratitude.

The lesson?

Look for the thorn. They come in all shapes and sizes. Sometimes they take the form of a divorce, the loss of a family member, or poor health. The resulting behavior—the cynicism and negativity—is often just a smokescreen to disguise grief, or anger, or disappointment.

It’s your choice—how you react is up to you. You can decide to walk away . . . or offer to listen. It’s not necessary to suggest a solution to a seemingly insurmountable problem, or recommend a source for assistance. Sometimes, a friendly nod of the head, a smile, or a hug can go a long way in changing a person’s life.

It’s as simple as looking for the thorn.

Keep it healthy,


Jill Reid
Pathway to Personal Growth