A story was once told of a donkey that fell into a dry well so deep it could not jump out. A passer-by comes about the donkey as a result of its constant and loud braying and after giving lots of thought as to the best ways to help the donkey out of the ditch, the good Samaritan came back with a huge amount of sand loaded in a trailer. He set to work with his shovel and one hip after the other, he pours the gravel into the deep pit. “This man is cruel”, says the donkey, “He wants to bury me alive and for what reasons?” The donkey was in deep agony and lamented the cruelty of this man and his kind; “He should have simply gone his way after all”.
For every single drop of sand on the donkey, it felt like a bundle of punishment as it comes with knocks and pains here and there but the donkey keeps shaking it off. It went on for half an hour, then the donkey realised that the gravel gradually filled the empty pit. It was beginning to feel like there will be a second chance to life after all. The pains from the gravel then became a necessary evil for the donkey as he desired more of it; the choking and blinding dust from the sand was no longer a supplement for early mortality – for when the Samaritan rested due to exhaustion, the donkey’s heart begins to beat faster hoping his saviour had not left already – “more sand and pebbles”, cries the donkey.
Alas, Mr. Donkey came out to the embrace of the Samaritan stranger. “I can’t thank you better”, the donkey thought and for the Samaritan, he whispered, “Sorry folk, I couldn’t think of any other means without hurting you more”.
This story is true for most of us! How do you react to pressure and the vicissitudes of life? What do you see when the pebbles of responsibility, duty, and service are hauled at you? How do you respond to any attempt (seemingly negative or positive) to extract you from your comfort zone? It is obvious that our attitude towards pressure can break or recreate a new spirit in us.
Pressure comes from different engagements we face and the resulting effect is stress. The worst of it is when it accumulates from different sources – work, family, friends, finances, school, and so on. While coping with pressure from one source can somewhat be easily achievable, multiple pressures or stressors can be so challenging and demanding such that we end up being overwhelmed.
We shall look at 7 (seven) lessons from the donkey’s story above to find out how best to deal with pressure in very healthy manners that encourage positive and productive outcomes in everything we do.
Know how deep you have fallen: Getting to know the extent of depth in the pit of despair will help you understand whether it is time to cry or it is time to begin a self- effort to emerge from the pit. It is important to note that not all pits are deep enough to cry for help and not all pits are shallow enough to try on your own.
Understand your source of pressure: The donkey’s Samaritan friend applied pressure from the sand which signifies two things – his burial rites or his redemption. The donkey assumed the former in the first instance and reacted rather desperately, but when it realised how it uplifted it, there was calm all around. Do not conclude on whatever is thrown on you due to the amount of pressure you receive from school, workplace, or your community. Try to understand what the source of pressure is and the intention of the action. Your help may actually present itself in wolf clothing.
Develop the right mentality: Mindsets are developed by careful and diligent discipline on the brain and how it thinks. There are usually a lot of factors that affect our mindset and how we view the world – from society to family values, from our faith/beliefs to our experiences and from peer influence to media (traditional and especially social media). Having the right mindset is everything! It has a peculiar way of making us humane and tolerant with people and situations; it helps us to also have a right attitude for what we do and towards failures, successes, challenges and tasks.
Don’t feel the hit, fill the pit: There will always be stressors and there will always be times when we fail to meet up. While some may choose to wallow in the shelter of despair and remember all the things they did or did not do which made them end up in the pit, others will only remember what they should do in order to get out or prevent a repeat of the antics of their stressors. What you can always do is to embrace a strategy for coping with the pressures of life. Well, the good thing is the God-given ability in humans to cope with every kind of situation. Do not wait for help to come but be the help you need – it sounds difficult but it is possible to do.
When overwhelmed, cry for help: In the first point above, we spoke about knowing when to cry. Truth is, you shouldn’t cry but if you must, cry only for help and only when overwhelmed (you have exhausted all the means of helping yourself). And do not try to be brave when you know you really need help – feel free to cry before your head is off.
First see every help as genuine except otherwise: The world is full of people who will be more than willing to laugh at your predicaments. There are still a good number of those who will offer to help and then laugh behind your back with stories about your tragedy. But there are still those who will be genuine with all they offer to you – a disinterested form of kindness is still possible to find. Trust that every help that comes around is real but keep an open mind and a keen observation regarding the next moves of your helper. At least, do not show them how much despair lies within your heart.
Do not depend too much on your help source: Otherwise you make them feel the pressure as well! Those of us who know how to swim and have tried rescuing a drowning person understand what it means to feel the pressure. They literacy try to submerge the helper in an attempt to find air and survival. When help arrives, take a deep breath and say “I am glad you came” but not words like “please take me out, I am going to die” or “hurry up” or “the burden is too much to bear” or “I do not think I can be helped” or “my case is different from others you know of”. These words are not
encouraging at all for your source of help. The good Samaritan who saved the donkey knew of this and decided not to use a rope which would further stress the donkey and himself.
The next time you feel the pressure, remember the story of the donkey and make the right choices, perception and actions. You may find yourself asking for more stones and pebbles of pressure when you enjoy what it does to you!