What Bessie The Mule Can Teach Us About Relationships

Farmer Joe decided his injuries from the accident were serious enough to take the trucking company that was responsible for the accident to court.

Sitting on the witness stand, the company’s lawyer began interrogating Farmer Joe. “Didn’t you say, at the scene of the accident, ‘I’m fine?'” asked the lawyer.

“Well I’ll tell you what happened,” Farmer Joe responded. “I had just loaded my favorite mule Bessie into the…”

“I didn’t ask for any details,” the lawyer interrupted. “Just answer the question. Did you not say, at the scene of the accident, you were fine?”

“Well I had just loaded Bessie into the trailer and I was driving down the road…”

The lawyer interrupted him again. “Judge, I am trying to establish the fact that at the scene of the accident, this man told the highway trooper that he was fine. If the man was fine after the accident but now he’s suing my client, then the man is obviously a fraud. Please ask him to answer the question.”

At this point, the judge’s curiosity was piqued. With a grin on his face, he looked at the lawyer and said, “I’d like to hear what he has to say about his favorite mule Bessie.”

Joe thanked the judge and proceeded.

“Well as I was saying, I had just loaded Bessie, my favorite mule, into the trailer and was driving her down the highway when this huge semi-trailer ran the stop sign and smacked my truck right in the side. I was thrown into one ditch and Bessie was thrown into the other.

“I was hurtin’ real bad and didn’t want to move. However, I could hear ole Bessie moaning and groaning. I knew she was in terrible shape. Shortly after the accident, the trooper came on the scene. He could hear Bessie moaning and groaning so he walked over to her. After he looked at her he took out his gun and shot her between the eyes.

“Then the Patrolman came across the road with his gun in his hand and looked at me. He said, ‘Your mule was in such bad shape I had to shoot her. How are you feeling?'”


Over time, I’ve come to loathe the word “fine,” partly, because it flows out of my mouth so easily. What does “fine” mean anyway? Good? Healthy?

In reality, when someone is asked “how are you?” for most people “fine” is a loose translation for “shut up and don’t ask.” We don’t want to bore people with how we’re really feeling, nor do we want to run the risk of being vulnerable or engaging in conversation.

But what would happen if for one week, everyone deleted the word “fine” from their vocabulary and actually answered how they’re really feeling?

“I’m discouraged.”

“I’m really hurting right now.”

“My daughter has me worried.”

“My boss just gave me a raise!”

Even “shut up and don’t ask.”

Obviously, the stranger on the street may not be interested in listening as you air your dirty laundry, but real conversations would take place. And we’d begin moving beyond formalities.

Lately I’ve been trying to avoid the word “fine” when people ask me how I am. At first they’re taken back by my honesty, but then they begin sharing how they’re really feeling. Then—believe it or not—an actual conversation begins taking place.

Authentic community, which leads to life transformation, begins when people move beyond formalities and begin sharing who they really are.

Try it and see!

This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.
1 John 1:5–7



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14 responses to “What Bessie The Mule Can Teach Us About Relationships

  1. Mike


    I wonder if facebook and twitter and texting, etc. are making our communication more honest or further isolating us from honest sharing. Is the commercial with the wife / daugher / mother at the table, texting her husband at the head of the table that her parents, across the table, are moving in, and then texting the daughter beside her that they are moving into her room – is this a mirror of our society? Just wondering.

    • Georgie-ann

      I think that Michael is talking about what we used to call “taking the mask off.” I’m not sure what it is that prompts us to adopt the personality “cover up” mode, sometime after the age of two. (Personally, I rather enjoy the realness of 2 year olds!)

      Direct intimidation stimulating an underlying fear is surely part of the process at some point.

      But I think that there is also an invisible and unspoken process of an almost automatic “magnetic assimilation” into an external cultural pattern via the “Copy Cat” urge. Our willing Conformity with these external guide lines makes it “look like” we belong to a certain group — even “rebellious” gang members try to look alike among themselves!

      But an unreflective and automatic conformity to externals, can lead us away from being in contact with our deeper inner truths. For some, this “inner truth” is merely shielded, hidden, but sadly for others, it appears to become in effect “lost.” And loss of one’s true identity and personal honesty is a very great loss indeed! — and is the unidentified source of much unrest and unhappiness, personal and societal.

      We know what happens to a car trying to run on “bad fuel.” It is the same with us humans — if we do not find and care for our true selves honestly, we can never be truly happy or satisfied.

      After learning how to socially conform, cooperate and “get along,” it is also important to retain (or refind/identify) one’s own personal truth and questions in the middle of all of this. In this way, we also develop personal strength, integrity and authenticity, and, in fact, often stumble upon the greatest adventures of our lives, spiritually and otherwise. It takes courage to live honestly in society!

      For best results (manufacturer’s instructions): Trust God, His Word, and His voice, as your voice, within you.

  2. Mike, I think that commercial IS a mirror of society. It would happen in my house if I allowed it around the dinner table. My two 14 year old daughters tell me that kids their age don’t talk on the phone that much because they prefer texting. We’ve placed a limit of 3,000 texts per phone a month, but if we didn’t, they would reach 10,000 or 15,000. Incredible, I know.

  3. Georgie-ann, I get the feeling you’re MUCH smarter than me!

    • Georgie-ann

      probably just older,…you ask more questions and make more observations than the average bear, and after awhile you’ll end up coming to conclusions and summing it all up, the way us older people do,…I think it’s a good and normal process,…but too few people these days are really looking and asking and examining things at the appropriate times along the way,…

      I found your book* to be very thought-provoking, btw,…

      *Strange Fire Holy Fire

  4. Georgie:

    That joke about the farmer is a truth spoken in jest, especially for pastors. Vulnerability is dangerous. I have often had people use my authentic answers to the question “how are you?” against me. I’ve been shot and shot at. So, I am often gun shy.

    Unfortunately, we’ve all heard the refrain “Christians shoot their wounded.”

    I think the danger is worth it, however. Mask wearing is just slow death. But I am learning to know who has earned the right (another of your favorite words Mike K) for me to go deeper and be more transparent. Not all have or will. And I try and pick and choose who I give bullets to put in their gun.


  5. Mike

    I’ll jump in again. If I were a prophet I would forsee the demise of the entertainment church (no offense intended) because it is too expensive and doesn’t work well to lead people deeper into faith. Christians might be forced into house church where it becomes essentially a small group and becomes far more effective as salt and light (consider the church in China). In fact this may not be far in the future, bringing a correction to our shallow relationships and forgotten social, family and personal awareness. Of course nothing is stopping us from practicing those forgotten skills now even if, as Eugene notes, we get “punished” for doing it.

  6. Georgie-ann

    Michael & Eugene,

    I’ve developed a reticent persona (slow to speak) — believe it or not! — especially around crowds and amorphous groups of people whom I don’t know well. This is to prevent all kinds of misunderstandings and judgments being formed by those who are too quick to do so, and plenty of folks are. However, I keep my awareness of my own “truth” and position on things very close to the surface, just underneath. I try very hard never to lie or fall into some clap-trap exchanges where I would be drawn into a flow of conversation that would cause me to appear to agree with things that I actually do not. It is easier to initially be perceived as “quiet” than to recover from false impressions created by “going along to get along.” After awhile people will usually adapt agreeably enough to my presence, and let me be me. Then I’ll start to let more “hang out” & it usually works out well enough. (iow,…I’m very slow to give bullets to anybody!,…I surely have been there & done that,…but we also have to remember that how someone uses those bullets shows us more about them, than the other way around.)

    I am very impressed with the ability of some pastors and priests that I know to relate lovingly and encouragingly to these same crowds from the get-go. God gives us different gifts! When I commented on this amazing ability to a local priest friend of mine, he reminded me that it might be something I wouldn’t understand because I’m NOT a priest! Simple enough answer. Truth has many facets, especially as we mix in the inclinations of our commonly experienced humanness with the ways that God helps us with His Spirit.

  7. Eugene and I are purposefully avoiding the “entertainment” approach to church. Our goal is to build authentic community and grow to 200 people before hiving off another congregation. I’m not convinced churches can maintain a sense of intimacy when they grow past the 200 barrier. But being a relational church has its drawbacks. Things progress much slower because tasks play second fiddle to relationships. When people leave, it hurts because you’re in relationship with them. Nevertheless, I never want to go back.

  8. Linda

    Oooh, I’m enjoying this thread. This is one of my favorite subjects to talk about, rant about and ponder. And I LOVE the notion of the “entertainment church” (yuk!) As one of the walking wounded of the church — and how many of us aren’t! — I long for authentic relationships but because I’m one of those people who tends to be a little more blunt and transparent, have gotten put through the grinder a number of times. It becomes more difficult to trust the process each time. I appreciate both Mike and Eugene because I know they and their families have suffered at the hands of fellow believers. Eugene said that Christians “shoot their wounded”; I believe we often eat our dead. Harsher, I know. And I also completely agree with the other Mike who discussed the notion of the house church. So … just chiming in for chiming in’s sake, I guess, but this really resonated. Thank you.

  9. Georgie-ann

    After my kids were grown & out of the nest, I was happy to settle back into the quiet peacefulness of the Catholic Church for my own regrouping. I had wanted a more dynamic and Bible-based youth program for them, so we excitedly jumped into a Word of Faith Fellowship. Actually, for a number of years, we were doing both. Attending a Sunday Mass was easy enough, while also participating in all the services and programs offered by the family oriented fellowship. Church was our basic social life & it was good.

    I had become so used to being active in the fellowship, that I also found things to do in the Catholic Church, once it was more my personal focus. What I loved about it, though, was an ability to be present, but to also rest, spending time in quiet personal reflection and meditation. I found a different way to be sustained and nourished by God. Having the wonderful Bible teachings already “under my belt,” I had a lot to ponder, reflect upon and sort through.

    The biggest problems associated with any of these church settings, came more from the personalities of individuals trying to force other individuals into their tight-fitting straight-jackets and definitions and requirements, approval and disapproval systems. I could usually conclude that God was a lot bigger and more loving than a lot of what I was seeing in this vein.

    I won’t minimize the spiritual challenges that come with deceived, corrupt individuals either. But for me the basic lesson was: God is Good. Humans are flawed. Buyer beware. Respect yourself and God and His Word. Pray about everything. Find peace. Make important choices. Love. Rest. Continue. Hope. Be honest.

    I believe that there is a stage in one’s spiritual life and development, where some form of voluntary discipleship (and hunger for God) is a very important part of bonding and training and learning, but we ARE meant to grow and mature in a deep and trustworthy and understanding way with spiritual things — not necessarily “carbon copies” of someone or something else — related scripture:

    1 John 2:12-14
    12 “I am writing to you, little children, because for His name’s sake your sins are forgiven [pardoned through His name and on account of confessing His name].

    13 “I am writing to you, fathers, because you have come to know (recognize, be aware of, and understand) Him Who [has existed] from the beginning. I am writing to you, young men, because you have been victorious over the wicked [one]. I write to you, boys (lads), because you have come to know (recognize and be aware) of the Father.

    14 “I write to you, fathers, because you have come to know (recognize, be conscious of, and understand) Him Who [has existed] from the beginning. I write to you, young men, because you are strong and vigorous, and the Word of God is [always] abiding in you (in your hearts), and you have been victorious over the wicked one.”

    At some point we begin as babes needing “milk.”
    1 Peter 2:2
    2 “Like newborn babies you should crave (thirst for, earnestly desire) the pure (unadulterated) spiritual milk, that by it you may be nurtured and grow unto [completed] salvation,”

    We grow through challenges, which we overcome as “young men,” eventually becoming the “fathers” referred to in 1 John 2.

    We’re all somewhere in a spiritual growing process. God is certainly not a stagnant and boring proposition!

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