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The Nonsensical Option of Sawing off the Limb You’re Sitting On

June 29, 2020

The title of this article is quite a concept, isn’t it? Sometimes we get blinded to the reality that the things we do today can affect tomorrow adversely and painfully. Creating a comfortable but unwise present has a real possibility of sacrificing tomorrow’s future. Here are three short stories that illustrate the concept of what I will address today. I call it ‘sawing off the limb you’re sitting on.’

A story is told of a dog walking across a bridge with a bone in his mouth. When he looked down into the river and saw his reflection, he thought it was another dog with a bigger bone. He jumped in the river to get the big bone and drowned. Jealous and envious people often make choices that have severe consequences. That dog sawed off the limb he was sitting on. Often, people do the same.

Here’s another story that illustrates the concept sawing off the limb you’re sitting on. An elderly woman died recently. Having never married, she requested no male pallbearers. In her hand-written instructions for her memorial service, she wrote, “They wouldn’t take me out while I was alive, I don’t want them to take me out when I’m dead.” That’s called spite from disappointment. As Jane Austin would say, spite is a “most disagreeable alternative” for everyone.

Here's the third example. In a Brooklyn upscale pet shop, an elderly lady burst into the store. "I want to buy a canary, but it's got to be a real good singer. I've got cash, but I'm paying only for a good singer.” The shop owner began moving a ladder towards a small cage on a shelf about fifteen feet up, near the ceiling. "Ma'am, I have forty years in this business. In this birdcage is the best singer I've ever had."

“Don’t think I’m going to feel obligated to pay for something I don’t want just because you’re climbing up a ladder like a monkey. I want a canary, but it’s got to be the best singer around.”

As the shopkeeper came down from the ladder, he said, “Ma’am, this bird is a veritable feathered Caruso!” Placing the cage on the counter, the canary burst into melody after melody. Awed, the woman murmured, “This bird is really a good singer.”

Suddenly, the woman noticed something.  She screamed at the shopkeeper. “Hey, what’s with you? This bird only has one leg.” The pet store owner was perturbed. “Lady, what do you want, a singer or a dancer?”

Isn’t it a shame that she couldn’t see the miracle because of her ungratefulness caused by her unrealistic expectations? She didn’t want a bird that could sing like Caruso, she wanted a perfect bird that could sing like Caruso. She missed the opportunity of a lifetime. She sawed off the limb she was sitting on as far as wanting a one in a million, singing bird. That’s nonsensical. 

Remember, when you’re out on a limb, try not to saw yourself off from the tree holding you up. You see this concept in action time and time again in families and marriages. Many times, the ones who love us the most are the ones we cut ourselves off from. That is like winning the battle but losing the war. To do that is to oppose yourself. Opposing yourself is nonsensical.

Be mindful in these present chaotic times not to get into a situation where you saw off the limb you are sitting on. Unfortunately, many people are going to do that. Here’s one example of a hundred that I could use. Rather than peacefully marching to bring awareness of racism (which is needed in this time), some ultra-angry marchers will end up with a toxic police record from pillaging stores.

There’s a difference between a peaceful protest march and a riot with robbery. Good things, taken to extremes, become bad things. This type of behavior turns off the audience they wish to reach. And, for the rest of their lives, they will have that police record, with repercussions that could affect their future. That’s the truth about consequences.

Think about it. Will what I am currently thinking, deciding on, or planning undermine what I want to do and where I want to go in the future? Or am I getting caught up in the drama, urgency, or emotion of the moment, taking me to places I don’t want to go?  

The question to ask yourself when making important decisions is not, is this decision or option legal? The question to ask yourself is, in light of my past history, my current situation, and my future goals and desires should be - is this option or decision wise? If it’s not wise and not legal, I would suggest you stay away from it. Don’t saw off the limb you’re sitting on.

Many today are leaving God out of their life and lifestyle. Please don't do that. Don't let current trends, issues, and current philosophy saw you off from the tree (God) who loves you the most and the tree (God again) you need the most. That is a “most disagreeable alternative” indeed.

It doesn't matter how fast you run if you're going in the wrong direction. Jane Austin would say it this way, "Use your sensibility when your sense is nonsensical."

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Ed Delph is a leader in church-community connections.
Visit Ed Delph's website at www.nationstrategy.com