Ancient Greek mythology tells the sad tale of Vulcan, the son of the supreme gods Jupiter and Juno. Vulcan was particularly attached to his mother, the more so as Jupiter’s philandering and abusive ways brought her such pain. Vulcan lavished affection on Juno and sought to comfort her when she suffered Jupiter’s neglect.
One day, after Juno had unleashed a fit of jealousy, Jupiter punished her by hanging her out of heaven, held by a golden chain. Vulcan, distressed by his mother’s plight, grabbed a hold of the chain, and pulling with all his might, dragged Juno back into heaven and was about to set her free, when Jupiter returned. Infuriated that his son had interfered in what he saw as an issue between husband and wife, Jupiter hurled Vulcan out of heaven.
The space between haven and earth was so great that Vulcan’s fall lasted a whole day and night. Hitting the earth he injured one of his legs, leaving him lame and deformed for the rest of his life.
But it was not the fall that hurt Vulcan as much as his mother’s response. Though he had risked everything to rescue his mother she never made the slightest effort to discover whether the had reached earth safely. Wounded by her indifference and ingratitude, Vulcan vowed he would never return to Olympus and withdrew into the solitude of Mount Aetna.
The myth highlights what is a very human reality, the wounds that can come not from what people do to us, but what people don’t do. To feel unappreciated and unvalued can create deep emotional wounds, and generally, they cut deeper the closer we are to the person who doesn’t value us. One of the great relational disciplines then is to learn to express gratitude for the goodness and kindness of others, to appreciate their actions and let them know we appreciate them. In the mythology of Olympus Vulcan’s entire future could have been shaped differently if only his mother had shown some gratitude.
Source: Scott Higgins. Mythical information found in Guerber, Myths of Greece and Rome
There was once an optimistic farmer who couldn’t wait to greet each new day with a resounding, “Good morning, God!” He lived near a woman whose morning greeting was more like, “Good God… morning?” They were each a trial to the other. Where he saw opportunity, she saw problems. Where he was satisfied, she was discontented.
One bright morning he exclaimed, “Look at the beautiful sky! Did you see that glorious sunrise?”
“Yeah,” she countered. “It’ll probably get so hot the crops will scorch!”
During an afternoon shower, he commented, “Isn’t this wonderful? Mother Nature is giving the corn a drink today!”
“And if it doesn’t stop before too long,” came the sour reply, “we’ll wish we’d taken out flood insurance on the crops!”
Convinced that he could instil some awe and wonder in her hardened attitude, he bought a remarkable dog. Not just any mutt, but the most expensive, highly-trained and gifted dog he could find. The animal was exquisite! It could perform remarkable and impossible feats which, the farmer thought, would surely amaze even his neighbour. So he invited her to watch his dog perform.
“Fetch!” he commanded, as he tossed a stick out into a lake, where it bobbed up and down in the rippling water. The dog bounded after the stick, walked on the water, and retrieved it.
“What do you think of that?” he asked, smiling.
“Not much of a dog” she frowned. “Can’t even swim, can he?”
The story is told of a theological college in Sydney where a final year student prepared to preach to the students and faculty. It was many years back and it was the custom of faculty to critique the sermon afterward.On this particular morning the Principal of the college stands and says “Mr Jones would have done better to stand up this morning and say ‘I have no word from the Lord’ and then sit down again.”
I’m still not sure whether is truth or legend, and I don’t know what happened to John Jones, whether he went on to become a pastor. But I suspect that those were words of death in his ears every time he ever stood up to speak in public again. Certainly he may have needed critique, but not like that.