The Parable Of Clayton & The Skunk

Since I use many stories in my speaking and writing, people constantly share tales with me they think might be good material. In one such instance, an elderly gentleman named Clayton told me about his encounter with a skunk as a young man. He had hiked into the mountains to camp for a few days to gain solitude and sort out some things. The major problem he was dealing with was how to react to a man spreading rumors about him.
In the early morning hours of the second night, Clayton was awakened by a scratching sound in his tent. In the moonlight he discovered a skunk had entered and was rummaging through his belongings. With his large hiking stick by his side and the skunk distracted by an apparent found treasure, Clayton thought he had a chance to pick up the stick and club the potent intruder. But Clayton appreciates and loves animals, so he quickly discarded that idea.
Instead of doing anything at all, Clayton just lay there very quietly, not moving or making a sound. Then, as the skunk’s rummaging continued, he thought again about attempting to club the skunk before he could release his stench. But apart from the fact that Clayton did not want to kill any animal, he thought, “Suppose I did successfully pick up the stick, strike a perfect blow and kill him instantly – in his dying act he could still ruin my tent and everything in it, and make me sick and smelly for quite a while.”
So, again, Clayton decided his smartest move was not to move. He had packed his food in an animal-proof container and now prepared to wait out the search. After a few minutes – which seemed like hours – the skunk decided there was nothing for him and departed as he had entered, having done absolutely no harm at all. Breathing a sigh of relief and thanking God he had made the right decision, Clayton returned to his peaceful slumber. He was happy not to have “created a stink” by foolishly defending himself or initiating an attack against the foul critter invading his space.
The next day while Clayton was eating breakfast, he decided God must have sent the skunk his way to teach him how to deal with the big problem on his mind. He thought about how oftentimes our space is invaded by some creature intent upon rummaging through our lives, actions and motives. Human nature says, “Retaliate! Club him!” The wiser course, however, is usually to remain silent and do nothing. Attempting to retaliate and club a skunk may only leave you feeling bad and smelling the same!
As Clayton packed up and began his journey home, he continued to think about the lesson learned. He confirmed that his decision to hold off on verbally or physically attacking the human intruder in his life was a wise one. He also decided that if the intruder did not eventually go away like the skunk, then he could at least approach the man in a civil way, without a club. He told himself that God gives humans the ability to talk, to communicate, and to settle things without calling upon the baser animal instincts.
Great lesson, Clayton! And it came at a good time for me. A friend told me recently about a woman who apparently is filled with low self-esteem, bitterness and jealously, and constantly belittles people. The friend said I was the woman’s latest target. My friend set her straight, but still wanted me to know about the woman’s unkindness. I thanked her and told her I would just let things run their course. Meanwhile, I said I would remain polite and cordial to the woman, help her in any way I could, and pray that God would help her resolve her problems.
And that’s the key – realizing it is the intruder who has the problem. It is the rumormonger who must claim ownership and seek solution. This is the one we should have concern for and seek to help.
Carl Mays, author of over a dozen books and speaker at over 2500 events, can be contacted at or 865-436-7478. His books, including his two most recent, “People of Passion” and “Are We Communicating Yet?” are available in stores, at, and on
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